If any of you have got an idea for a novel and simply can't make headway with it, perhaps The Food Detective will spur you on. I struggled for months before I got the right angle for this.
I wanted to write a novel set in Devon, though not the cosy seaside Devon of the picture postcards. It would feature the work of a Food Standards Agency inspector, Nick Thomas, an ex-policeman suffering post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a terrible incident in his days with the West Midlands Police.
Nick was so damaged that his marriage broke down, he failed to fulfil the promise of his earlier career and he was subject to crippling flashbacks. I got to about chapter 18 when I realised that not only was the novel attracting no publisher, but it was also boring me - and I was the writer, remember!
My favourite character in the book was a WeightWatching publican called Josie Welford, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue and a love of good food I could identify with. One morning I asked myself "What if?" and promptly rewrote the whole thing from her viewpoint. The book fairly rattled along: I was actually sorry to type in the last full stop.
To my great delight, my publisher liked Josie too - so much that he asked me to write another book about her. I hope you enjoy the The Chinese Takeout.
So if your novel simply isn't working, take a tip from me: stand back and ask if you're seeing it through the right pair of eyes. Good luck.
Allison & Busby
1 August 2005
Streetwise Josie is one of the rare women who can keep a secret for 20 years, has gumption, bravado and a diet that works. Any reader over 40 will want to put up a poster of her. Let's hope Cutler brings Josie back.
Kirkus Review of Books