Sunday, September 21, 2014

Family Ties

Please welcome guest author, Sara Jayne Townsend.

By Sara Jayne Townsend

There’s an old adage that says, “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” Family in the traditional sense are the people with whom you share genes. Some families are very close, with grown up children living nearby, having children of their own and still popping round for coffee a couple of times a week. Some families are distant, either emotionally or physically. In the 1980s, there was a TV show called “Family Ties” that featured Michael J Fox as the yuppie teenage son of a pair of ex-hippies. The show was basically about the fact that the children of these parents were very far removed from the ideals the parents had held dear in their youth. But despite their differences, the family all pulled together for each other when it counted.

My own family is far-flung. I live in London, my father is in Scotland, my mother and my sisters are in Canada, one of my cousins is in America and most of the rest of my extended family live in the North of England. When you live far away from all of your family members, you get used to living your life without them being a big part of it.

The concept of family is a primary theme in DEATH SCENE. When I created my amateur sleuth, I took my own experience of parents in different countries, but because I did not want the character to be too similar to me I changed her situation. Shara Summers has a Canadian father and a British mother who moved back to England after her divorce. Shara begins the book in Canada, but she receives a call from her mother asking her to come to England because her sister is suffering from a mysterious debilitating illness, and her mother thinks the family should all be together.

Shara is carrying around a lot of baggage about her situation. It’s something she realises she has to face, and although she clashes frequently with her mother and sister, she comes to realise that they will always be an important part of her life, no matter how often they argue.

DEATH SCENE is a murder mystery, but it’s also a lesson in family ties. The underlying theme is it doesn’t matter how far away you run, your family are still there for you. It’s a lesson that Shara eventually learns, and it’s something she’s going to need to take forward in future books. Shara’s family are important characters in the series. No matter how much they drive her crazy.


Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEATH SCENE is coming very soon from MuseItUp Publishing:

Ruth sat in her rocking chair watching the television–which was probably about ten years old, and appeared to be the most modern thing in the room. She was wearing a blue floral dress, with a patchwork blanket over her knees. I had seen that dress before. Her hairstyle hadn’t changed, either–her white hair was thinning, and she wore it short and curly, in the style of old ladies everywhere. When we came in she looked up, a toothless smile breaking out over her face. She had dentures that she never wore–something else she only saved for special occasions. As a child, Ruth had appeared very scary to me on the occasions she wore her dentures because we just weren’t used to seeing her with them.
My mother went up to Ruth and leaned in to give her a kiss on her soft wrinkled cheek. “How are you, Auntie Ruth?” she said loudly. Ruth’s hearing had been going even back then. She must be virtually deaf by now.
The house was freezing. The only source of heat was a three-bar electric fire on the floor by Ruth’s feet.
I’m doing all right, dear,” Ruth said. Her voice was husky, ravaged by age and lack of use. “Mustn’t complain.”
Summer, still in my mother’s arms, began to cry and squirm, no doubt intimidated by the presence of this ancient lady. “Who’s this?” Ruth said, stroking one of Summer’s chubby legs.
This is Summer,” Mum said. “This is my granddaughter. You’ve met Summer. Astrid’s daughter.”
Ruth frowned. “Astrid? Your little one?”
Not a little girl any more, Auntie Ruth. She’s all grown up now.” Mum pointed in my direction. “This is my other daughter, Shara. Do you remember? Shara lives in Canada.”
Ruth was staring at me, frowning. There was no indication that she recognised me. “It’s been a long time,” she said eventually.
Hello Auntie Ruth,” I said.
Have you taken your pills, Auntie Ruth?” my mother asked.
Ruth frowned in concentration. “Pills? Think so. Can’t remember, you know. My memory’s not what it was.”
My mother thrust the crying child into my arms. “Watch Summer for a moment, Shara. I’m going to make Auntie Ruth some lunch.” And off she went into the kitchen.
I sat down in the faded armchair and bounced Summer on my knee. She kept crying. Ruth stared fixedly at the television. There seemed to be an Australian soap opera on. I couldn’t tell which one. I wasn’t a fan, and they all looked the same to me. “So what are you watching, Auntie Ruth?”
Eh?” She swivelled round to stare at me.
I raised my voice. “The television. What are you watching?”
Oh, I don’t know, dear. I watch everything. Keeps me company, you know.” And she lapsed back into silence, staring at the television. A couple of minutes went by and then she said suddenly, “they’re stealing from me, you know.”
“They’re stealing from me.” Ruth continued to stare at the television. I wasn’t at all sure she was even aware of anyone else in the room. I stood up with Summer in my arms and hurriedly went to find my mother in the kitchen.


Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in 2014. DEATH SCENE, the first book (and a re-release) will be available in Summer, with the sequel, DEAD COOL, following in Autumn.

You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at or her blog at


  1. Congratulations on the release, Sara! It sounds like a very interesting read.

  2. Congrats on your releases, Sara. I can relate to the 'living far away from family'. I'm in the western part of the U.S. and my family is on the east coast. But, as you say, you get used to the miles in between. best of luck to you.

  3. Hearty congratulations on sending a book out into the world -- may it fall under many an eye. An interesting juxtaposition of subjects, too, family and homicide. If looks could kill, my family would have murdered me decades ago (grin).

  4. Thank you, Julie and Mark for stopping by. Mark, I think statistically people are more likely to be murdered by a family member than a stranger! Fortunately we writers have another outlet for our frustrations!