FANS of crime fiction are being invited to buy their way into a starring role in a new novel – and help a cancer charity in the process.
The winner of author Ann Cleeve’s online auction will see themselves immortalised when her new book is published in the US.
And the novel idea has been backed by fellow crime writer Ian Rankin who said it is “good fun and a great way of raising money”.
The real-life literary character will appear in Cleeves’ fourth instalment of her quartet of Shetland-based books.
The first two have already been published, with the third part ready for publication in March.
Along with her two sisters, Vaila had appeared in the first novel in the series, Raven Black.
Ms Cleeves says she usually puts real people’s names in books to thank them for helping her during the writing process, but this time has launched a bidding war to raise money for the cancer charity.
The Harvey family had helped with the writing of the novel, and Ms Cleeves admitted whenever the three girls were at home “the house was full of laughter”.
The Vaila Fund was set up by the late teenager’s parents Liz and Paul to help young people in Shetland to travel and have adventures.
Ms Cleeves said: “I sometimes use real people’s names in the Shetland books – a bit of fun and occasionally a way of thanking friends and people who’ve helped.
“In Raven Black I mention the Harvey girls – one of the lead characters goes to their party. Appropriate I thought, because whenever we visited Liz and Paul and their daughters were home the house was full of people and laughter.
“Last year the youngest Harvey girl, Vaila, was diagnosed with cancer. It seemed that the illness had been treated and when I visited Shetland for Up Helly Aa, she was there watching the parade, cheerful and energetic.
“But on my next trip in May she was desperately ill in hospital in Aberdeen. It seemed that the whole of Shetland was holding its breath, willing her to get well. Unfortunately she died soon after. She was sixteen years old.
“Her parents have decided to set up a fund in her memory, to allow Shetland young people to have the adventures Vaila would have enjoyed.
“To support the fund, I’m offering you the chance to have your name (or that of a friend or relative) in the fourth book in the Shetland quartet, which has the working title of Homecoming Blues.
“Of course, you’d get a signed first edition and an invitation to the launch party. The book will be published in the US and probably be translated into a dozen languages.”
Award winning Rebus author Ian Rankin said: “I’ve been doing the same thing for several years, as has been noted widely in the past.
“In the past, people have paid at charity auctions for their restaurants or bars to be mentioned in my books, for their cat to be mentioned, or for their infant daughter to be a character.
“It is good fun and a great way of raising money.”
The winner of the literary auction will be announced at the Launch of Ms Cleeves third book in the series, Red Bones, in Lerwick on March 10.
Please visit www.anncleeves.com/vaila.html for more information.