Today, as part of the Falling Suns Blog Tour, I have a fabulous guest post by Julie-Ann Corrigan. If you missed it, you can read my review of this outstanding debut here.
Falling Suns – institutional corruption and phone/computer hacking
Thank you for having me on your blog, Michelle. I thought I would talk about the above themes in my novel, Falling Suns, today.
The initial inspiration for my book was to show a mother in the first days following the disappearance of her child, seven-year-old Joe. Rachel’s worry soon turns to grief when Joe’s body is found. Her grief and angst is tied up with her own guilt, thinking – and wrongly so – that it is her fault Joe left the family home unaccompanied.
As is the case in many abduction/disappearance cases, the perpetrator of the crime is someone known to the family – Rachel’s cousin – her father’s brother’s son. Once I’d decided on the perpetrator’s identity I set about planning another thread in the novel, because although it is Rachel’s story I knew that it was important to include Joe’s murderer in the narrative. I didn’t want to write a straight forward ‘Who did it’ storyline, but more of a ‘Why did he do it?’
How would I do this, and set up the rest of the tale?
I began researching psychiatric hospitals in the UK and dug deep to find inspiration. I also researched Death Row in the USA and read voluminously the psychological profiles on the prisoners marked for execution. Finally I knew I had the second thread to my novel, and also how I would weave in the two storylines – Joe’s abduction and murder, and the ‘story’ of the murderer, his background and profile. At this point I’d already begun writing, and it was easy to see how I could mix the narrative of Rachel with that of Michael Hemmings.
Once I began writing Michael Hemmings and the institution in which he is incarcerated, and after long chats with my friend – a criminal lawyer who himself sits on mental health tribunal panels – I began to plan the plotline of institutional corruption. I used the outcome of the exposé to move the plot forward, which ultimately sees Hemmings nominated to be moved to a less secure step-down unit.
Although there are limited scenes set within the psychiatric hospital and step-down unit, I felt they were imperative to the tone of the novel. It is here, as well as flashbacks from Rachel concerning her childhood, where the reader (and the writer) really gets to know Michael Hemmings.
I was determined to ensure the veracity of events within Littleworth Psychiatric hospital. The corruption that occurs within its walls is based very loosely on fact, although ultimately this is a work of my own imagination, and the characters and setting are fictional.
At the time of writing the first draft of the novel the news seemed to be full of reports regarding Jimmy Savile and other high profile paedophiles. I do believe that at the time I was influenced by these reports, and together with other facts that I’d unearthed, I felt that the Littleworth storyline was in keeping with the truths emerging regarding the ‘burying and hiding’ of information away from the public.
There are other areas of the novel that touch upon corruption – within the police force and concerning Jonathan’s phone and computer hacking. In both cases I attempted to handle the scenarios with care and finesse, trying not to evoke too much of a clichéd situation.
Regarding the hacking – again at the time of writing the first draft – there was much news coverage about both of these activities. It occurred to me that there was a time in journalism when a good journalist could well be left behind in ‘getting their story’ if they didn’t use the same techniques at gleaning information as some of their colleagues. I felt that Jonathan could well be one of those journalists. Also … he’s very good at it!
I hope that the themes I’ve touched upon in my novel resonate with the reader and never become didactic. It is a work of fiction, a story, and I hope my readers enjoy it as such.
Also available at:
Follow the rest of the tour: