Staffordshire Inspires Author Priscilla Masters
PUBLISHED: 19:14 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Staffordshire people and places provide the inspiration for novelist Priscilla Masters. By Dave Hancock
Having had her numerous crime books compared favourably with those of Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie, local author Priscilla Masters, has just had the first story she ever wrote published. This is nothing extraordinary. In Priscilla's life, this is ordinary.
"I have six brothers and sisters," she says, "all of us were adopted." Her two younger brothers and sisters are of mixed nationalities, Priscilla and two older brothers are British.
"It was a very Bohemian upbringing," recalls Priscilla, fondly.
There was a medical theme too - her father is a retired orthopaedic surgeon and her grandfather was in the medical profession. Priscilla went to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to train as a nurse and met her husband-to-be who was at medical school.
"I worked as a practice nurse in Leek," she says, "and based my Detective Inspector Joanna Piercy novels in this area."
Priscilla admits to memorising everyday incidents and passages of speech to use in her books. She says: "I was brought up in Wales, so I remembered sentences such as 'Going shopping are you?' for my books set in Wales.
"In Leek, they say things such as 'I aren't going' and I've used that."
Further authenticity includes sometimes using real people as the basis of her characters. She says: "Joanna Piercy has a sidekick called Detective Sergeant Mike Korpanski and he really exists! His mother lives in Leek.
"I put people I know in the books either as somebody nice or, if I don't like them, as a victim. In return for a 100 donation to the Save Maer Hills campaign, I've agreed to make the donor a character in my next book."
Mention of the Maer Hills indicates a family relocation. Priscilla had a 10-year spell selling antiques in the Leek area before she moved with her family to near Market Drayton. Priscilla resumed her nursing career, initially in general practice and then at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital - where she continues to work part-time specialising in respiratory medicine.
Following separation from her husband, Priscilla now lives near Eccleshall and continues to take inspiration from her surroundings and location, Priscilla's new series features Martha Gunn, a coroner in Shrewsbury and began with River Deep published in 2005.
The Watchful Eye, was published last year and is about Dr Daniel Gregory a GP in the small market town of Eccleston. "Yes, Eccleston is based on Eccleshall," says Priscilla. "Daru Chini, the Indian restaurant, is the same in the book as is Little Monsters children's clothes shop. There's the memorial clock in the High Street and I used the doctor's surgery in Eccleshall as a setting. I've also included The Plough at Woodseaves which is my favourite pub and where I'm a regular."
Buried in Clay, published in December, is Priscilla's latest book but actually her first story. She says: "I began writing when an aunt asked me what I was going to do with my life. I said, 'I think I'll write a novel' and wrote a 400-page stunner I called Hall o' th' Wood. It was inspired by a house I'd seen near Battersby in Yorkshire."
The manuscript was produced on a manual typewriter and Priscilla sent it to a number of publishers without success. Tragically, a literary agent then accidentally destroyed it.
Priscilla says: "When my books began being published by Allison & Busby, my publisher, Susie Dunlop, asked about other work I'd done and I mentioned this lost manuscript. She asked if I could write it again from memory and that's what I've done, although it's now called Buried in Clay.
"It's more of a melodrama than my later books and I've actually re-written bits that were too melodramatic. I'm thrilled that my first book will finally be published."
Buried in Clay is about an old jug bought at an auction by antiques dealer, Susanna Paris. She meets Richard Oliver and discovers the jug portrays Hall o' th' Wood - his ancestral home. When the jug gets stolen, Susanna vows to discover the dark secrets of the Oliver family.
With her 'first' tale now published, Priscilla is not about to stop writing. Indeed, she will be as busy as ever, travelling the country giving talks about crime writing, organising 'murders' in bookshops, pursuing her interest in ornithology and enjoying long country walks.
"I'm either frantic or in a catatonic stupor," she says, rushing off as the interview ends and leaving me bobbing gently in the wake of her ordinary life.
Latest books by Priscilla Masters
The Watchful Eye (hardback 19.99) ISBN 978-0749679956
Buried In Clay (hardback 19.99) ISBN 978-0749079130
Published by Allison & Busby Ltd