Scottish woman’s first novel written in lockdown in France is a murder, mystery and magic thriller set in Africa
Edinburgh-born Bev Harris has lived with her husband, Ian, in a small hamlet in a rural corner of France for the past five years. However, very recently Bev and Ian packed up their lifetime of belongings and relocated back to the UK and, more specifically, to the beautiful Mull of Kintyre.
In March 2020, when France entered the strictest lockdown in Europe, possibly even the world, Bev felt increasingly isolated and homesick for her friends and family in the UK. She couldn’t sleep at night and even feared the fortnightly trips to shop for groceries. It was impossible to obtain face masks or hand sanitizer for months, and her fear of catching Covid was very real.
Ian suggested she try and write down a story that she’d told him years before. Writing was meant to be a distraction – something to take Bev’s mind off the pandemic, the rapidly rising infection rates and the constant media coverage she was unable to escape from. He was right. This talented Scots woman is now on the cusp of publishing her first book using the pen name Beverley C Harris.
During lockdown, sitting overlooking her beautiful garden in France, Bev was able to disappear into her imagination to rediscover characters she’d lived with for many years. These characters came to life and, within a few months, her first novel called Conspiracy of Cats, had really taken shape.
She put in between 6-8 hours a day almost every day, vanishing into the magical world of the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, where the supernatural, murder mystery is set. Although Bev and Ian spent a month seven years ago in South Africa at an animal rehabilitation centre and a safari lodge, Bev’s knowledge of Kilimanjaro was limited and she had to research extensively about the Maasai people, their culture, the commerce of the Kilimanjaro area and Tanzania in general.
Less than three months later, the first draft of the novel was finished. Bev said: “I literally couldn’t type quickly enough to get it all out. Writing this story saved me from depression and, undoubtedly, saved Ian too, as he managed to get the real me back.”
Until she started to write Conspiracy of Cats, Bev had not really written anything fictional since leaving school around 40 years ago. However, whilst working backstage for fifteen years in various Edinburgh theatres, Bev gained some writing experience composing detailed dressing notes behind the scenes for performance after performance to ensure perfect continuity. She jokingly explained: “A touch of OCD definitely came in handy!”
As soon as Bev had finished the first draft of her first ever book, which she says will certainly not be her last, she realised that she actually liked it. Several reads and edits later, she knew that she really liked it and especially enjoyed the therapeutic writing process. Originally describing herself as a reader rather than a writer, she confesses that she is now a committed writer and hopes to keep on writing until she’s not able to write any more!
Conspiracy of Cats is due to be released later this summer by Olympia Publishers of London. In the meantime, Bev has been working on other stories that have been floating around inside her imagination. She completed writing Making Sacrifices before Christmas last year. Set between Edinburgh and Exmoor, it has its own cast of characters and is now almost ready for submission. Since then, Bev has started writing another murder mystery, The Accidental Assassin, a tale about a young woman who makes a career change from carer to contract killer!
“I want to keep writing for my younger self,” explained Bev. “I never had the time when I was young. I also want to write for my husband because he believes in me, and for my daughter, so I can leave something of myself behind.”
Conspiracy of Cats not only features domestic, furry felines, but also wild, ferocious big cats, and offers the reader an exciting escape and sometimes shocking journey into a world of murder, mystery and magic. However, without letting the cat out of the bag, there is one really dramatic scene that will undoubtedly shock. On the whole though, Conspiracy of Cats is an easy-going read and may even make you laugh – a perfect companion for a long-awaited holiday after lockdown.
Here is one of the media outlets that featured this press release. As featured in the Campbeltown Courier and the Oban Times.