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Writing Bleak Waters by Gary Kruse

I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, Gary Kruse, to the blog today to explain what inspired him to write his novel, Bleak Waters. Thank you for taking time to tell us all about your new book, Gary. Over to you.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Val. As you know, place very often inspires the stories I write and my upcoming supernatural mystery, Bleak Waters, is no different.

Set on the Norfolk Broads, it’s the story of Lily West, a grieving daughter still troubled by her father’s suicide the previous summer.

When she meets Theo Sinclair, who’s come to Norfolk asking questions about the unsolved disappearance of Claire Baldwin twenty-five years earlier, Lily finds a respite from her grief.

As Lily is drawn into Theo’s quest, a shadowy figure begins to haunt her. The deeper Lily digs into the mystery of Claire Baldwin, the stronger the hauntings get and she starts to consider the worst; that the figure is her father, and he was involved in Claire’s disappearance.

I’d wanted to write a novel set on the Norfolk Broads for a long time and Bleak Waters is my second attempt, the first being a project called Ruins that still sits in my unfinished novels files.

The initial notes for Bleak Waters were written in May 2019, when I was on holiday in Hickling with my family. The remote locations – the old mill, the thatched-roof boat houses and the wide open fields, not to mention Hickling Broad itself – offered the perfect setting for a mystery.

Those first batch of notes contain the seed of what Bleak Waters would become; a stranger arriving in the village, raising suspicions or stirring up long buried secrets, and a young woman who is caught in a conflict between wanting to help the stranger and staying loyal to her family and friends.

The one question that wasn’t answered in those notes was why the stranger (Theo in the finished book) had come to the village.

A few days after returning from Hickling, I started writing the first draft of my dark thriller Badlands, and wouldn’t return to Bleak Waters until September 2019, when draft one of Badlands was finished.

When I returned to the notes, there was a lot of stories in the news about cold cases featuring people that had disappeared in broad daylight, within a very narrow window of time, never to be seen again.

Given the remote nature of Hickling, plus the need for Theo to have a motive for going there in the dead of winter, a mysterious disappearance seemed perfect for my story.

I spent a few sessions knitting the pieces of Claire’s fictional vanishing together, creating a timeline of events leading up to her disappearance, and putting in clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing and once all this was complete, the story was put on hold as I returned to writing draft two of Badlands.

Work on draft one of Bleak Waters finally began in October 2021. Originally called Broadlands, writing Bleak Waters was tough and for a time I wondered if the book would end up next to Ruins in my abandoned projects file.

I wasn’t happy with the first draft, so re-wrote it from scratch only to find the new draft still didn’t work. Eventually I smashed both of those drafts together, and crucially, added some of the back story from Ruins and from that point, Bleak Waters came into its own.

With the third draft done, I passed the book over to my beta-readers, and the positive feedback they gave reassured me that the book worked, and also helped me to tighten the plot further.

And here we are, counting down to Bleak Waters’ release on Kindle on Friday 14th April, with the paperback to follow in the summer of 2023.

The Author

Gary Kruse is a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to find who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. He has won and been shortlisted for several short story competitions and his debut dark thriller novel, Badlands is an Amazon bestseller.

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