Posted in Personal life, Writing

Remembering Forget-me-nots in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries

My contribution to the Authors Electric collective blog this month
Visit their website to find a different post by a different author,
every day of the month (I post on the 30th)

Photo of Debbie in a bluebell wood
I’m also very partial to bluebells (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

As a novelist, I like to think I make everything up. 

While the standard disclaimer appears on my copyright pages declaring each book a work of fiction, little details creep in from real life.

Snippets and snapshots are dredged up from the ragbag of my memory.

Sometimes this is for no apparent reason, such as the recycling bins that appeared in three separate stories in my flash fiction collection, Quick Change. I didn’t even notice the repetition until one of my beta readers asked why they kept cropping up. For fear of seeming obsessive, I replaced one bin with a bonfire, which made for a much better story.

Other times I manage to wrestle the reasons from my subconscious after I’ve finished writing the story, such as the forget-me-not motif that runs throughout my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series.

In the first novel, Best Murder in Show, Hector, the local bookseller, remarks on the colour of Sophie’s eyes. She’s in fancy dress as Virginia Woolf on a book-themed carnival float, while he’s playing Homer, togged out in a toga.

“Your eyes are the wrong colour for Virginia Woolf,” he tells her. “Hers were grey. Yours are forget-me-not blue.”

As the series progresses, forget-me-nots become a symbol of all that Sophie stands for. (I won’t spoil the plot by explaining what that means.)

The Roots of My Fondness for Forget-me-nots

Only after weaving this motif into the story did I realise my affection for this humble little flower dates back much further. It originates in the unlikely setting of a suburban London garden most unlike Sophie’s home in the idyllic Cotswold village of Wendlebury Barrow.

arrangement of book cover, candle and vase
Forget-me-nots in my grandmother’s treasured old vase

You see, forget-me-nots flourished in my grandmother’s back garden, in my childhood home town of Sidcup. Visiting after school, I’d skip up her garden path, admiring the low clouds of tiny blue flowers edging the concrete path beneath her washing line. Often I’d pick a bunch to present to her on my arrival, complimenting her on how beautiful the garden was looking.

Compared to the carefully cultivated garden of my other grandmother – the one I picture when I write about Sophie’s Auntie May’s cottage garden – the forget-me-not grandmother’s garden was sparsely planted. The only reason those flowers appeared there in such profusion was that she often didn’t bother to plant much else. With no competition, they quickly took over the flowerbeds. My grandmother may even have regarded them as weeds.

To my childish eyes, with their sky-blue colour and fairytale name, they were as precious and exotic as the very best hothouse roses.

I’m very glad that Sophie likes them too.

A Growing Fancy for the Little Blue Flower

Since writing them into Sophie’s stories, I’ve started to acquire forget-me-nots all around my writing desk – fake ones, of course, so they last all year round. The latest addition is a vintage pottery candleholder decorated with forget-me-not transfers, a must-buy at the local Guides’ jumble sale. Seeing my little forget-me-knot collection every day spurs me on to write more and makes me happy.

What Next for Sophie Sayers?

save the date notice for Hawkesbury Upton Lit FestTheir manifestation in my current work-in-progress, Murder by the Book, came to me in a flash, and I’m very pleased with how it’s worked out. Set between New Year and Valentine’s Day, this fourth Sophie Sayers adventure will be launched at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival on Saturday 21st April.

But I’ll have to wait till book five, Springtime for Murder, before I can allow the real flowers to blossom in Wendlebury Barrow. Oh no, hang on, I mean fictitious ones.

Roll on, spring, I’m ready for you, real or not.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE SOPHIE SAYERS VILLAGE MYSTERIES HERE

4 thoughts on “Remembering Forget-me-nots in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries

  1. Bluebells are my reminder of,home. I grew up in Leeds,Yokshire with the woods behind our house a mass of bluebells every spring. We would bring armfuls home. Now,living,in,California I have them in big pots in my garden.i looked today and. They are starting to pop up thru the snow we had last week.
    Brings me a little bit of home. Debbie,I,really enjoy your books and newsletter.Thank you Marjorie Richmond

    1. How lovely, Marjorie, thank you for sharing that memory. The bluebell wood by my grandmother’s house was also adjacent to my primary school, and every spring there would be jamjars of bluebells on every windowsill in the school. I still think picked bluebells look best in jamjars! Your Californian warmth will bring yours on much earlier than ours, though – we’re still at the snowdrop stage here! (The photo in this post was taken last May!)

  2. Photo – you in the Hawkesbury woodlands,I think? I have painted our cat there (combining 2 photographs of course …) Lovely bluebells, they were out when we walked down the road to the church at Hawkesbury. (A thought: should I get photographed in the Oxford Science Area, I wonder? For my website?)

    1. Yes, well spotted! The woods down on Inglestone Common, down the hill from the Hawkesbury Monument. This photo was taken not long after last year’s Hawkesbury Festival. I’d love to see your painting of Hodge in the woods – what fun! And yes, absolutely – what a good idea for you to be photographed in the Oxford Science Area – and perhaps also in a labyrinth, if you can find one! In fact, you could start collecting images of labyrinths and sharing them as a bit of fun marketing for “The Labyrinth Year” too.

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