Hello, and happy Thursday! I’m continuing my occasional series for Throwback Thursdays, and this time I’m looking back at Bramblewick.
This series has proved to be one of my most popular – yet I didn’t start out to write another series at all. In fact, I’ll let you into a secret. The very first Bramblewick book was originally a Kearton Bay novel!
In the Beginning
Here’s what happened. I’d written the first two Kearton Bay books, and then I’d diversified a little and written the first Skimmerdale novel, This Other Eden. When I’d published that, I decided it was time to head back to the Bay to see what everyone had been up to in my absence.
The Best Laid Plans…
Initially, I’d planned to write a book featuring Chrissie and Robbie. Readers of the Kearton Bay books will know that Chrissie works in the gourmet marshmallow shop, Mallow Magic, run by Rose and Eliza, and is the daughter of doctor’s receptionist, Meggie. And Robbie is the son of Bernie, estate manager at Kearton Hall.
Anyway, I began to work on a story about what home means. Someone might love a village with all their heart, but if the person they loved most in the world was moving away, would they choose to follow the person, or stay in the place that meant everything to them? And maybe, when faced with that question, it would raise all sorts of other questions – including, how much do they really love that person, after all?
A Radical Rethink
I gave up on the story after a few chapters, because it just didn’t feel right to me. Will and Lexi were nudging me too hard, and I knew it was time to tell their story. And I wasn’t convinced that Chrissie and Robbie, as lovely as they are, were compelling enough to take centre stage. So I shelved the whole story and set to work on Once Upon a Long Ago.
But the idea kept nagging away at me, and I thought it might make a good pocket novel. I’d already had All Because of Baxter published by The People’s Friend. Could I do it again? I had the basic idea for the story. I just needed two main characters. And a setting…
Back to Bramblewick
Bramblewick had already been featured in the Kearton Bay books. It was the little village on the North York Moors to which Flynn took a puzzled Rose in A Kiss from a Rose, and just about broke Rose’s – and my – heart as he revealed his secret. I’d even mentioned the pub, The Bay Horse, and I knew there was a medical practice in the village. It seemed ready made for this new book.
Enter The Doctor’s Daughter…
So I wrote the story of Anna and Connor, and their friends and neighbours in Bramblewick. I gave it the title of The Doctor’s Daughter (mainly because I’m a Doctor Who fan and that was one of my favourite episode titles). To be fair, it WAS about the doctor’s daughter. In fact, it was about two doctors’ daughters. I thought it was a lovely, gentle story, and I really warmed to all the characters in the book. I really hoped The People’s Friend would like it.
They did! They published it as Surrender to Love, and gave it a cover I really loved. I was chuffed to bits with it, and considered the job done. Except…
After Surrender to Love was published, I was thrilled to sell the large print rights to Ulverscroft, who published it as The Doctor’s Daughter. By then, I’d already published the book on Kindle as New Doctor at Chestnut House (poor book must have had an identity crisis!) and written the next in what I’d realised would be a series. Bramblewick was just too delightful to say goodbye to. Besides, I wanted to know more about Anna and Connor, and Connor’s daughter, Gracie. I wanted to know more about Izzy, Anna’s best friend. Would the surgery be saved? Would they take on another GP? Who would he or she be? Would that change things in the village? What about the cheerful, kind hearted Nell at Spill the Beans cafe and bakery? What was her story?
So Christmas at the Country Practice was written, featuring the delightful Nell, who – to his dismay – falls head-over-heels with new GP, Riley MacDonald. There was much more humour in this story, and since I’d visualised the hero as looking just like Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser, I had a fantastic time writing it!
I followed that book in April the next year with Fresh Starts at Folly Farm – the story of practice nurse, Rachel, who wakes up one morning to find a horse in the stables of her rundown farm, with no clue as to who he belongs to or who put him there. From then on, her life changes, and so does Folly Farm.
It seemed silly to stop at that point, as I still hadn’t found out if Izzy would get her happy ending. Besides, I’d quite enjoyed visiting the village at Christmas, and I thought I’d like to go back there the following Christmas. And Izzy was a primary school teacher, and we all know about those Christmas plays… Yes, it was time for A Merry Bramblewick Christmas.
A Hectic Schedule!
I realised I’d unintentionally created a routine. One summer book and one Christmas book a year. I was squeezing the Bramblewick books in around other releases. The series as a whole was sandwiched between Resisting Mr Rochester and To Catch a Witch, and I’d written both Moorland Heroes books AND the epic Being Emerald between New Doctor at Chestnut House and A Merry Bramblewick Christmas, and had nearly completed Belle, Book and Christmas Candle, too.
It was hard work, helped by the fact that I’d kept the Bramblewick stories a bit shorter than my usual books. As New Doctor at Chestnut House was originally written as a pocket novel, it was the shortest of them all, and possibly slightly different in tone to the others. Bit by bit, the other books became a little longer, with more depth.
July 2019 saw me release the final summery Bramblewick book, Summer at the Country Practice. The fifth book in the series, it was much more complicated to write, and ended up being a lot longer than the first four. Although I’d introduced Abbie at the end of A Merry Bramblewick Christmas, and mentioned Jackson – Ash and Izzy’s colleague at the school – they were basically new-to-me characters, and took a lot more working out. What was going on with them? Why were they both so cagey? And could two people with such opposite personalities really make a relationship work? Well, I enjoyed finding out!
A Bittersweet Winter
December 2019 brought the last ever Bramblewick book. I hadn’t intended it to be as long as it was, but in the end it was the longest of the series – roughly about the same length as Belle, Book and Christmas Candle. I wanted to do Holly’s story justice, as I felt it was important. She had a lot going on and I needed time for that to play out. Besides, I’d already decided it was to be my last visit to Bramblewick, so I really wanted to give it everything I could.
Since I loved Holly, and I loved Lewis, I wanted to enjoy myself in their company. I tied up some other storylines from the previous novels, featured Kearton Hall from the Kearton Bay books, and even gave some Kearton Bay characters guest roles. Honestly, I think Christmas at Cuckoo Nest Cottage was a fitting end to a series I’d grown to love, and a fond farewell to characters I considered friends.
Over the course of the six novels, I’ve watched the practice go from under threat to thriving: they’ve increased the staff from one GP to three, one receptionist to three, and now have a full time practice nurse. I’ve watched relationships crumble and new ones flourish, attended weddings, welcomed new babies, celebrated and commiserated, loved and laughed, and become fully absorbed in life in my little village on the moors. I feel I’ve left Bramblewick an even better place than it was when I first visited, and my job there is done. But I do miss it!
If you haven’t visited Bramblewick yet, the books are all available for Kindle. There’s also a Kindle boxset – a collection of all six stories in one volume, at a lower price than you’d pay for the individual books. And they’re all out in paperback, too. The first four in the series are even available in large print editions.
I’m giving away a signed copy of the first paperback in the series. This contains New Doctor at Chestnut House and Christmas at the Country Practice. Alternatively, I will send you the complete Kindle collection of all six books! All you have to do to win is fill in the contact form with your details. Type Bramblewick prize as your message, and that’s that! I’ll enter you for the draw, and if you win I’ll be in touch. You can then choose whether you’d prefer the paperback or the Kindle boxset. Good luck!
Home for Christmas/Winter Tales Giveaway Winner
Thanks to all those of you who entered! The winner of the paperback editions of Home For Christmas, Christmas with Cary and Winter Tales is Christine Spiers. Congratulations, Christine!
Have a great week!