One of the decisions I have to make for each Sam book – and, surprisingly, I make this decision near the end of the process – is when in the year to set the story. I already know the year, of course (“Plank 6” is set in 1829) but not the season. The plot of each book usually spreads over three or four months, and of course the time of year forms part of the background. “Fatal Forgery” was autumnal, “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” was summery, and “Worm in the Blossom” and “Portraits of Pretence” were both set in the spring, while “Faith, Hope and Trickery” encompassed the whole second half of 1828. I am now mulling the season for “Plank 6” – and this decision is difficult because I am sitting here at the top of a mountain in sweltering heat. And as with all extreme weather conditions, I cannot remember what it felt like to be at the other end of the thermometer. So if Martha ends up ripping off her stays and jumping into a tin bath of cold water, you’ll know why.
One benefit of the heat here is that I have not been tempted to go out wandering in the countryside – and so I have hit the ground running in terms of word count. On day one (yesterday) I managed a respectable 2,829 words, while today I bashed out a very pleasing 3,515. Of course word count is not the ultimate aim – this is only the first draft – but I use it as a handy measure of how productive I have been. And in those two days I have brought back two characters from earlier Sam books, created a whole new character I was not expecting, and given him a dog called Sloane. Or maybe Hans – I can’t decide.
And don’t forget: the title poll for “Plank 6” finishes at the end of July, so there’s only a few days left to cast your vote.