Heleen Kist is a Dutch quintilingual Stanford-educated globetrotting career woman who fell in love with a Scotsman and his country, and now writes about its (sometimes scary) people from her garden office in Glasgow. She is a recognised expert in international business and small business finance and has put this knowledge to good use for her debut novel, In Servitude.
[For the author’s professional credentials in business see LinkedIn]
Setting out on a mission
No matter how content you are in life, you occasionally need something new and exciting: a light to pierce through the clouds of the mundane. A life-affirming frisson, if you will. To shake things up, I’ve challenged myself to undertake some daunting tasks in the past, like stand-up comedy, but writing a psychological suspense novel has been the hardest thing I’ve done so far.
When I decided in January 2017 that I would write a novel, I did not have an inkling of what the story would be. Living in Glasgow, with the reputation it has, it was obvious there should be an element of crime. But what did I know about crime, beyond what I’d read in novels or seen on TV? Thankfully, very little. And in a way, I wanted to keep it that way. But I did wonder: how easy would it be for an ordinary person to not just become a victim of crime, but to become the perpetrator?
Over the course of the next 2 months, while I took part in the James Patterson Masterclass online, I made a point of being extra observant, asking myself ‘Could this be a story?’ whenever something unusual caught my eye. Then a friend told me about wanting to open a vegan patisserie. ‘Wouldn’t that make a lovely setting?’ I thought. I also quipped that if it didn’t’ work out, it could always become a front for money-laundering.
And so was sewn the seed for In Servitude.
What ‘Write what you know’ meant for me
You see, in my day job I am somewhat of an expert in small business finance. I’ve set up venture capital and loan funds for local and national government, I was on the Board of what is now the British Business bank and I’ve sat on the Access to Finance expert group for the UK government. I’ve consulted to Scottish and European financial institutions.
So once the idea of financial crime took hold, I had the spark I needed.
I grabbed an old roll of wall paper from the garage, spread it out on the dining table, stopping the sides from curling with the first things that came to hand – potatoes – and drew the whole plot out: the twists, the red herrings, the sub-plots and all.
Then to write it all out. I won’t lie: it was hard.
But because I had a full outline, I just went about it chapter by chapter. Mentally picturing the whole scene unwinding like a movie before I started to type. The dialogue came easy: I could hear the different characters speaking inside my head. The plot had already been laid out, so it was down to capturing the action and the settings in a compelling way.
Never truly free
I was careful to keep the ‘accounting skulduggery’ simple and accessible–financial matters aren’t everyone’s bag. And ultimately, In Servitude is not really a story of financial crime. It was the vehicle to write about how we’re all beholden to another in some way. A family drama with plenty of betrayal that shows that we’re never truly free.
I’ve been delighted with the fantastic reviews and reader feedback I’ve had. As a debut author it all seems quite wondrous. And yet it reiterates my theme: I’m now expected to write another…!
Do you owe your family your life?
When her beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, Grace McBride’s carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory had been sucked into illegal activities at odds with her seemingly charmed existence. What’s worse: Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice and forced to take over the shady dealings.
Determined to keep her fingers clean and redeem her sister’s reputation, Grace plots to extricate herself—and those Glory held dear—from the clutches of Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her moral certitude is challenged when familial pressure mounts and Glory’s past intentions remain unclear. Grace grows convinced Glory’s death was no accident, even if no-one will listen.
Seeking justice, she finds betrayal.
Blue pulled at the lead. I let him off once I’d scanned the area and noted no loose dogs. Only a lone figure loitering. His eye line crossed mine as he also examined the park, and paused on me long enough to raise a creepy sensation.
I moved to a bench by the play park and pretended to tie my laces. When I straightened up, the man was striding straight towards me. I searched for Blue, hoping for a semblance of protection, but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was anyone else.
Before I could stop him, the man sat down next to me. He whistled and shouted, ‘Here boy!’ then faced me with a disturbing grin. As if he knew the dog wouldn’t come. I jumped to my feet and looked around. What had he done?
On the second blow of silent air through my dry mouth, Blue appeared from behind a tree thirty yard away. Safe. He showed no interest in me or the man, instead sniffing out the ground’s many treasures.
I turned back to the intruder. Standing over him gave me an edge—at least I thought it did—and I raised my chin and my voice when I asked, ‘Do I know you?’
He chuckled. ‘Nah, hen. I’m only the messenger.’
His smile faded. ‘We’re not very happy about you closing the café for so long. You need to open up again. There’s a delivery coming on Thursday.’
‘What do you mean? How do you—’
His eyes turned to ice as he grabbed my wrist in a flash. ‘We’ll be very disappointed if you’re not there to receive the goods. Ken what I’m saying?’
He rushed off, his dark coat billowing behind him like a cape, almost engulfing Blue who circled his legs, tail wagging, until he turned towards the road.
A tailor’s dummy stood beside me, draped with colourful scarves that reflected the sunset in shimmering patterns, as if calling for my attention. I ran both hands through the soft fibres, creating dancing shadows on the wall and releasing a smell that punched me in the lungs, calling up a memory so vivid that I became light-headed.
Glory’s young voice.
‘Look at me! I’m Scheherazade!’
Loose strands of long red hair enveloped her face as she twirled around, her hands waving multi-coloured strips of fabric in fluid, hypnotising motions along her eleven-year-old body. She bounced towards me, covering her nose and mouth, batting her eyelashes in cartoon-style seduction. ‘Oh Aladdin, my hero! Shall I dance the dance of the seven veils for you?’
‘Stop it, Glory.’ I grabbed the so-called veils she’d been dangling in front of my face, too close. ‘Plus, that wasn’t Scheherazade. I’m fairly sure the dance of the seven veils was Salome.’
Glory shrugged and kept the choreography going. ‘I don’t care. It’s exotic! And foreign! And marvellous!’ Each phrase was punctuated by a defiant jiggle of the hips.
‘And a little blasphemous,’ I said, failing to suppress a large grin.
‘Okay, miss party-pooper. Your turn to do something with this.’
She heaped the mix of polyester, silk and cotton we’d rescued from our parents’ store onto my head and sat on the ground. Bright blues beaming in anticipation.
‘Fine, Salome. You think you’re so sexy. Well, you’ve got another think coming.’ I wrapped layer upon layer over my shoulders and across my waist, waiting for the inspiration that came so easily to her.
Once I could move no more for the bulk, I plonked my elbows on my side and stood legs apart like a superhero, bellowing, ‘For I am…Heidi!’ My heart leapt as her unrestrained laughter filled the room. ‘And I am on my way to meet my own man…’ I paused, basking in my sister’s approval, while I searched for that goatherd boy’s name—or any goatherd name. She roared as I broke into song instead. ‘High on the hill lived a lonely goatherd, yodelay-hee yodelay-hee yodelay-hee hoo!’
‘Oh Grace, you’re so funny,’ she said, then launched into yodels that merged into mine. And I wished it would last forever.
Publication date: 23 August 2018
RRP: £1.99 eBook; £9.99 Paperback
Genre: psychological suspense / domestic noir
Amazon: http://mybook.to/InServitude Also available at Blackwell’s & Waterstones.
Amazon Author Page