Ms. Birdsong Investigates: her journey so far

Helicopters feature in Ms. Birdsong Investigates. Photo: Jane Risdon

Birdsong. The name came to me out of the blue. I wasn’t thinking about writing, I hadn’t planned a new book but the name stuck in my head. Several times during the day I could see a woman in my mind’s eye: tall, slim, honey blonde hair, with blue eyes, and she had a nasty scar running from her knee to her ankle on her left leg.

Who was she? She was the first thing I thought about the following day. I kept thinking she must be someone I knew or had heard about. But I could not think of anyone. Pushing her to the back of my mind I got on with writing a couple of short stories for a Crime anthology I’d been asked to contribute towards; the mysterious woman shunted aside whilst I concentrated upon writing.

Thames House home of MI5 Photo: CNrB

A day or two passed and she popped into my head again. This time I discovered her name was Lavinia Birdsong and she worked for MI5. Where on earth did she come from? So, now I had a name, a full physical description, and an occupation for my mystery woman.

I was so intrigued I decided to put everything I knew about her in writing and about an hour later I discovered I’d the first chapters of a new novel. I’d been writing furiously, her story poured out of me. And, I had the title for a new novel:

Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka.

At the time I wasn’t sure where the story would go or what she’d investigate. That came a little later. I am a ‘panster’ – I never plot or plan – I just write and see what happens as I go along.

I wrote the whole novel in about 2 months and then I put her away. I had recently signed with a publisher for my short stories and it never crossed my mind to offer Ms. Birdsong to them. Besides, I’d started another novel at the same time which I’d been meaning to write for years which was intended to be based on my experiences in the music business – fictionalised.

Operation Matryoshka – the name was inspired by these Russian dolls.

Writing the 1960s music novel was proving to be a strange business. I won’t bore you with the details but along the way, the novel started to become a romance. I don’t read romances and I wasn’t consciously writing a romance, but that was the direction it was taking.

It became obvious to me that the romance novel would be better if there was another voice, another leading character in the story, and so an old friend, who is a successful, award-winning author in her own right, being someone who knew the music business during the 1960s. agreed that we write the novel together.

I wrote two (main) characters: Renza, her family, Scott and Narnia’s Children. Christina Jones wrote Stella and her friends.

Only One Woman took precedence over Ms. Birdsong Investigates. Photo Jane Risdon

My (our) publisher, Accent Press Ltd. loved the novel and Only One Woman was to be published within months. Ms. Birdsong was forced to take a back seat.

There were several publishing dates scheduled for Only One Woman, but each time publication was postponed because everything at the company was on hold; our publisher announced the company was up for sale. There were many companies interested in purchasing it.

Only One Woman was written on this notebook. Photo Jane Risdon

Meanwhile, I could see it was going to take time for the company to sell, so I decided to go back to Ms. Birdsong. I began updating her in places. I’d decided upon writing three books, at least, in the Ms. Birdsong series.

Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka

Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder at the Observatory

Ms. Birdsong Investigates: The Safe House

However, whilst I was writing her, my publisher’s sale fell through – not once, but twice – much to our frustration. So for them, it was business as usual for a while, and more dates for publication were scheduled. Yet again our novel was postponed for various reasons beyond our control. All this time I had Ms. Birdsong Investigates (book one) waiting in the wings; my hands tied.

Ms. Birdsong was written on this computer. Photo Jane Risdon

I wrote several more short stories for various anthologies, penned numerous articles for print and online magazines, and also decided to study Forensic Science and Criminal Justice. I studied with online universities that had designed courses, especially for crime writers. I worked on 7 courses over 2 years.

Eventually, our co-written novel was published and the company was sold. Another hold-up had to be endured whilst our new publishers – Headline Accent – dealt with the take-over, and it was to take two years for them to get around to considering publishing anything new by the authors they’d inherited.

My short story collection: Undercover: Crime Shorts was published during this time.

Undercover: Crime Shorts. Photo Jane Risdon

Along the way, I managed to conduct a great deal of research into MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Services and I began writing books two and three in the Ms. Birdsong series.

In December 2019 I was approached by an agent interested in my writing. I was invited to send a synopsis and 7 pages of my latest novel – I decided to submit Ms. Birdsong. Soon after I was asked to submit 50 pages, and not long after that, they required the whole novel. I researched the company meanwhile and found it to be very successful with a good track record.

Ms Birdsong was submitted from this computer. Photo Jane Risdon

I received fantastic feedback, was asked to tweak one character slightly, and that was it. They wanted to sign me for representation. I found it a painless process – submitting and tweaking.

Finally, in December 2020, I signed my agreement with Linda Langton of Langtons International Literary Agency in New York, USA. And now Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka is on her way to various publishers (including Headline Accent) in the UK and others in the USA.

Signing my Agreement with Linda Langton Dec 2020

As and when I receive news of her journey to publication I will keep this page updated.

I am still in the process of rewriting books one and two.

Book Two: Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder at the Observatory

Book Three: Ms. Birdsong Investigates: The Safe House.

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