I get asked (more or less every day now) whether and when there will be a new Lacey Flint book. Some readers (the ones I prefer) beg me to write another Lacey story, telling me how much they’re missing her and Joesbury. Others demand another story in the manner of a hard-to-please restaurant customer, as though I can rustle up a book as easily as a well-stocked chef can produce a rare steak.
It’s becoming the question I most dread (followed closely by why did you change your name from SJ to Sharon?) because the honest truth is that I just don’t know. I will be very surprised if I never return to Lacey and her friends, but for the moment, I have other stories to tell.
I think that’s the key. My books all begin the same way. I have an idea that intrigues me, sooner or later other ideas will slip in alongside it and a story will start to form in my head. At that point, and not before, I ask myself who should help me tell this tale. If it’s set in London, on or around the river, if it involves a good chunk of hard detective work, and maybe the maverick thought process of a couple of off-the-wall coppers, then the chances are it’s a Lacey book. But if it isn’t, then no amount of forcing on my part will make a square peg fit the round hole.
I appreciate this might be frustrating and even annoying for ardent Lacey fans but whilst there may be some authors who can write to order, I’m simply not one of them. I believe that writers must write for themselves, first and foremost. To do otherwise is to risk producing a book that satisfies no one. I have to write the story that is in my head and in my heart. This year, it has been that of a woman, hiding away from the world, who, quite by chance, sees something that forces her back into it. Last year, Daisy in Chains, arose from my interest in twisted love affairs and before that, Little Black Lies was the tale of a friendship torn apart by an act of neglect with tragic consequences. None of these stories were right for Lacey. Maybe the next one that comes to me will be. When that happens, I’ll unlock my chest of flint and silver, pull out the puppets and give them a dust off. Until then, my stories will have to be told by others.