Its true! It’s nearly here. My debut novel His Dark Sun will be released tomorrow – Monday, 11th February 2019. The novel and more specifically Luke, the main protagonist, has been a constant in my life for almost ten years – yep, that’s how long it’s taken – and I am so thrilled that Luke’s story, however edgy and dark it is, will finally make it out in the big bad world. The final edits had me exhilarated, exhausted, crying, fearful, working until 4 in the morning, waking up in the night, having seizures of paranoia that this wasn’t actually going to be a good thing after all, no it was going to humiliate and ridicule me, because the book was essentially pants. Normal kind of stuff I’m sure.
You get copies of your book beforehand and I have looked at them longingly and picked them up and caressed the cover, even flicked through and read the acknowledgments, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to look inside, read any of the text. That was quite a surprising reaction and one I wasn’t prepared for. I used to scoff at actors who’d said they couldn’t bear watching themselves on screen. What! After all your hard work you don’t want to look? I didn’t get it, but I do now. We are our biggest critics. It’s been a while now and I’m more detached and it doesn’t matter if I can’t read it, I don’t need to, now it’s the turn of others to read it, if they so wish.
Luke’s story won’t appeal to everyone, I know that because I don’t – nothing and no-one is a fit all. All I am really hoping for is that Luke, and the world I’ve created, comes across as authentic. Anything else is a bonus and believe me that is not false modesty. The best thing about art, whether it be books or paintings, or theatre or dance or whatever, is that it’s a broad church. There are millions of other books out there but at least His Dark Sun has finally managed to make that leap and join in, because the lead up to this day hasn’t been easy or straightforward.
I started writing the novel when I was studying for an MA in Sheffield Hallam and had a very rough, very bad first draft. The title then was The Dangerous Sun and it had begun life as a short story. Not the greatest of moves. I got the voice of Luke Spargo, the main protagonist pretty much straight away, and the setting and his character traits didn’t post too problematic. My writing style had been developing prior to the MA, it needed honing and it needed polishing but for a first draft it was OK. The main issue I had was the narrative. And that was a sticking point that stuck and stuck and stuck and stuck. On reflection using a short story as a starting point was limiting. I basically stretched the short story out and made the storyline too thin and too weak to sustain a reader’s interest. Unfortunately, I can be stubborn, it’s one of my less good character traits, and that combined with a touch of ‘newly qualified writer arrogance’ did me right up and consequently scuppered the potential of acquiring an agent and/or getting published.
During this stubborn period the book managed to get longlisted for the Mslexia novel competition and also win me a Northern Writers’ Award. Coming to the attention of New Writing North, who run the Northern Writer’s Award, was my lucky break. Claire Malcolm the Chief Executive really liked my writing and part of winning the award was a meet and greet in London with agents, publishers, film makers, etc. An agent did offer to work with me but their suggestions were a bit vague and I was in the wrong headspace, romantically distracted shall we say… So that opportunity amounted to nothing and so I put the book away and started writing another. His Dark Sun wasn’t initially set in the near future, it took place in present day, but I set this second one in the future because I wanted to write a dystopian thriller. And the energy it brought to the story was so surprising. I got my mo-jo back and so half way into it, I thought what if I do the same with His Dark Sun. It worked. The narrative took off because I knew what to do. It was like a shot of steroids to the plot.
Then, as all good fairy’s do, Claire Malcolm got back in touch. She liked the sound of the revised manuscript and said that Moth Publishing, of New Writing North, were looking for new authors and asked me to send me the amended ms when it was finished. But I’d forgotten about the last nasty plot twist that comes just before the end, and as per my previous blog post cancer reared its head again. The cancer was treatable, but the treatment was tough, and I had to take a year out. I thought I’d blown yet another opportunity, but this story wasn’t going to have a bad ending. Claire told me not to worry, to just get better. So I did, and I finished the book and yippee the publishers liked it. Changes were needed and I worked with Claire on the edits. I did redraft after redraft and yet more redrafts. It was hard work. My other character traits include a tendency to not commit, to get bored easily, not persevere but I have learnt to acquire them now and I welcome them. Because, hello, perseverance and commitment yield results. And I have a debut book to prove it! Have I mentioned my book is due out tomorrow? Here’s a few links if you don’t believe me 😉