Veale’s murder mystery hits the bookshops

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It is a well known fact that being an author, an unknown author at least, can be tough to say the least.

JK Rowling famously wrote the first drafts of her Harry Potter books at the local coffee shop because she was so short of cash she couldn’t afford to put the heating on at home.

It’s paid off mind - she’s now worth £560 million and is the 12th richest woman in the United Kingdom.

But she is the exception to the rule.

For most writers it is about hard work, patience and a little bit of luck.

Alan Veale has put in the graft and been more patient than most, spending more than 20 years on and off completing his first novel The Murder Tree.

It has been well worth the effort though, with his debut book officially released this month.

Raised in Lytham and now living in Poulton, Alan has been writing pretty much all his life.

“I left King Edward School at the age of 18 with one O Level pass in English Literature, which is the equivalent to an A-level, and that probably says it all - the only thing I ever really loved was English and books,” he said.

“I used to write little skits to amuse my mates at school and then when I started working in insurance, I’d write a story and put my colleagues into imaginary scenes … that was what kicked me off I think.”

Alan got into theatre and began to act in local amateur dramatic groups in Lytham and Blackpool, and in 1975 wrote a show about the history of Blackpool.

A few years later, under the pen name Alan Gregory, he won a national play-writing competition organised by the Fylde Coast Players.

It was performed the following year at Lowther Pavilion Theatre under the title Best Laid Plans.

But his debut novel is very different from the plays he has scripted for theatre groups.

“I actally started writing the story 20 years ago for the stage but I realised it was too complex for a theatre,” said Alan, who has two children, Mollie, 19, and 17-year-old Matt.

“I thought about writing it as a screenplay but couldn’t get it to work so I abandoned the idea. I was working for the civil service in the Land Registry at the time but when I left there I decided to take the plunge and try and turn this idea I had into a novel.

“It’s taken two years of writing and another year of rewriting and submitting it for approval, but it is fantastic to now actually get it into print and have a release date - not least because it’s been hanging over my head for two decades.

“There will be more to come. I’ve enjoyed the taste of writing a novel and I am already working on a second one.”

The Murder Tree - based on the true story of Jessie McLachlan, a servant woman whose murder in 1862 starts a chain of events that were to rattle through history long after she was dead - was published on October 1.

Alan is appearing at Poulton library (on October 24, 2.15pm) and St Annes library (October 25, 2pm) to talk about the book.

n To win a copy of the book, answer the questions below correctly:

Q1: What was the name of the doctor who examined the body?

Q2: In what year was Teresa-Louise Fersen born?

Q3: What is Chrissie’s full name?

The answers can be found by viewing the book’s website

Entries, along with full contact details, must be submitted via the website, in the comments section, by Monday, October 14, to be considered for a prize.

There are three copies to be given away, and these must be claimed in person at a book-signing event at Plackitt and Booth, Lytham, on October 16.