Jennifer Sinclair is many things: loyal government minister, loving wife and devoted mother.
But when a terror attack threatens her family, her world is turned upside down. When the government she has served targets her Muslim husband and sons, her loyalties are tested. And when her family is about to be torn apart, she must take drastic action to protect them.
A House Divided is a tense and timely thriller about political extremism and divided loyalties, and their impact on one woman.
Author Bio –
I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.
I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.
You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.
Social Media Links –
Twitter – https://twitter.com/rachelmcwrites
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From the Corridors of Power to an Ordinary Suburban Street – the Locations in A House Divided by Rachel McLean
A House Divided is a political thriller with may of the key scenes taking place in Westminster. The protagonist Jennifer Sinclair makes passionate speeches in the House of Commons, has dramatic encounters in the corridors of Westminster and clandestine meetings in pubs and hotels around London.
But it’s also a family drama. The story centres on the tensions between Jennifer’s professional life and the rising tension between her and her husband Yusuf and eldest son Samir. So there are scenes set in Jennifer’s Birmingham home and in locations in her constituency.
I decided to make Jennifer a Birmingham MP partly because that’s my home city and I know it well, and partly because Spaghetti Junction made the perfect location for the terror attack that takes place in the book’s opening. This happens on the same day as a co-ordinated attack at London’s Waterloo Station, one in which Jennifer fears her family have been caught up.
This meant that the I had to research two sets of locations when writing the book: in Westminster and in Birmingham.
I used my knowledge of Birmingham for the scenes in the family home, choosing a road within site of Spaghetti Junction, which is a few miles from where I live. I took the time to walk around the local area and imagine Rita, a character in part 3 of the trilogy, walking the same streets in despair in that book.
For the Westminster scenes, I used my knowledge of the building from the time I spent working in politics before writing the book. I also had the help of an MP who read an early draft and suggested some locations I might not know about.
I discovered that there are spaces and rooms in the House of Commons where only MPs are allowed. There’s a dining room, a tea room and a space behind the Speaker’s chair in the Chamber of the House of Commons (perfect for private conversations during debates). I also learned that only MPs are allowed even in the cloakroom – which means MPs can never ask a member of their team to grab their coat for them if they’re in a hurry. Mind you, that’s not as archaic as the other feature of the MPs’ cloakroom – a pink ribbon on every hook. It’s to hang your sword on. Yes, your sword. To my knowledge, all those ribbons are empty these days.
I also included the corridors and underground passages of the Westminster estate in this book and the other two books in the trilogy. There’s an underground passage running between the House of Commons and Portcullis House on the other side of Westminster Bridge Road, and Jennifer races through it in order to get out of the building and quickly back to her flat on the other side of the Thames.
As well as a Birmingham home, Jennifer also needed a London flat. At first I had this in Dolphin Square, which is along the river from Westminster in Pimlico. But then I decided it would be better to have it near Waterloo, which raised the stakes when her family were staying with her there on the day of the bomb attack.
I decided to take a trip to Waterloo and walk the streets to find her somewhere to live. I found a great street of Victorian houses converted into flats. Amazingly, despite being a five minute walk from Waterloo, it was peaceful, with birds singing and no-one around in the middle of the day. The perfect place for Jennifer’s son Samir to hide from the police in the book.
I even went on RightMove to check out the flats in that road, and found one that would be perfect. It allowed me to imagine Jennifer inside the flat pictured in the estate agent’s photos, staring out onto the street and wondering where her son was. RightMove is a great tool for writers – not only does it let you see inside homes that your characters could live in, it also lets you check how much they’re selling for and whether a character might be able to afford the mortgage!
Coming up with locations for a novel is part online research, part travel and part imagination. Google Maps, Streetview and RightMove give you a starting point, but nothing beats going to the locations and breathing the air. It helps me capture the essence of a place and make it come to life on the page. It’s one of the perks of being a writer!
A House Divided is out now in paperback and ebook. You can find out more about he books characters and locations on my website rachelmclean.com.