A crime novel is not the obvious place to see your travel agency business mentioned, but that’s exactly what happened to Claire Horne.

Want You Dead, the most recent novel by crime writer Peter James, features a character who uses Travel Counsellors to book a holiday.

As soon as Claire heard about the reference she knew how it had come about – she has been booking the local author’s travel since 2007.

This is not the first time Claire’s business has been alluded to by James either. In 2012, “Claire the travel agent” was mentioned in James’s novel Dead Man’s Grip and she was also in the acknowledgements of his book Not Dead Yet.

“I didn’t know Travel Counsellors was going to be mentioned in the new book, which is great,” admits Claire, a travel counsellor for the past 11 years.

“Travel Counsellors has a brilliant message board and someone had written on there that the company was mentioned in the book.”

James used to be a customer of the Brighton branch of Aossa Travel, a company Claire worked for previously at its Worthing branch. After the agency ceased trading, James was recommended to Claire, and he has been a client ever since.

“He goes to the US and does short-haul trips, often to do research or write, as well as charity work,” adds Claire, who has attended James’s local book launches.

“He likes the fact I know what hotels and flights he wants and I’ll make sure I check him in online, so it all runs as smoothly as possible.”

When Claire started as a travel counsellor, she had no client list, just the names of her family and friends. “I wrote a list of my family and friends and their hobbies and that’s where it started. Now I get business from other mums in the school playground, I go to local networking meetings and over the years I’ve done wedding fairs,” she says.

But the key to spreading the word about her business and getting new clients is through recommendation, adds Claire, who tends to book tailor-made travel for clients or groups.

“What I’ve learnt over the years is to ask people to keep recommending me. I thank people for doing it and that’s how I’ve built my business 
up over the years.”