Wednesday 28 September 2011

Have You Read…


“An angel. An earth-bound angel, or a heaven-bound one, I wasn’t sure, but an angel nonetheless…”

Alex cared for his mother in the final days of her life, and now he needs a fresh start, so he heads off round the world in search of adventure. But he’s got no further than Indonesia when he’s involved in a horrific bus crash. As he lies injured in the road, his possessions are stolen and it seems his adventure is over before it’s even begun. His last memory before he loses consciousness is of someone offering him water. Is it an angel, or a human being?

Later, when he wakes in hospital, she returns. She’s human after all – a fellow traveller named Domino – and after getting him out of the hospital and away from the suspicious local police, she takes him to her remote community near the spectacular Lake Toba. At first, Alex thinks he’s discovered exactly the sort of off-the-beaten track experience he was hoping for, but he soon discovers that the community is haunted by secrets. Why is there so much tension between its inhabitants and the locals? What’s behind Domino’s uneasy relationship with the community’s leader, Kurt? And why will no-one talk about Sully, who left in mysterious circumstances some time before?

The truth is darker than anything Alex can imagine…

When the author was growing up, his family had a home in Sumatra for seven years, and this experience shines through in the writing. Everything about DARK HORIZONS – the setting, the descriptions of the culture and the sights, smells and sounds – feels utterly authentic. The plot is fast-paced but complex enough to be really satisfying, and the writing is so vivid I could see everything that was happening unfolding in my head like a movie.

My favourite thing about DARK HORIZONS, though, is the charismatic and unpredictable Domino. I love strong female characters, I love unusual names, and with this book, you get both. But with her magnetic attraction to danger, is she the best thing that could happen to Alex, or the worst? You’ll have to read the book and find out!

So what are you waiting for? Grab a copy now and discover the deadly secrets that lie at the heart of paradise. And why not check out Dan Smith’s equally gripping first novel, DRY SEASON, too?

Many thanks to Dan for agreeing to let the brilliant DARK HORIZONS be my first ever Book of the Month!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Telling People

I’m a writer.

What was that?

I’m a writer.

Sorry, you’ll have to speak up. I can’t hear you.

I’M A–

Okay, okay. You get the idea.

For a long time, only a handful of people – hubby, other family members, a few friends – knew I wanted to be a writer (note wanted to be, not was). Others knew I was interested in writing – it’s pretty hard to hide it when you’re first in line to volunteer for writing-related events at work, and then you end up running your library’s writing group. But I never told them how serious I was about it. I didn’t ask them to read my work, or turn to them with a wild look in my eye to wail about my slowly-growing collection of rejection slips. I didn’t start blogging about my writing process or tweeting about how hard I found it to bash out those tricky first drafts.

I was too scared to.

Because what if I was kidding myself? What if I couldn’t really write? Better to keep it a secret; then, if I failed, I could give it up quietly, and hardly anyone would know I’d wasted years trying to do something I had no ability for.

Yet something kept me plugging away at it. When I didn’t write, the world had no colour; without my characters whispering in my ear, telling me their stories, I felt as if I was living half a life. I was bored. And, despite my doubts, I wanted to get better at it, even if I wasn’t at-all sure that I could.

The only way to do that was to keep going.

In 2007, I had a breakthrough: I got an agent, the wonderful Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books, and my first YA novel went out on submission. I told a few more people about my ambitions at that point – but only a few. And when the book didn’t sell, I was relieved I hadn’t broadcast it. Instead, I got on with finishing my next novel, ACID, and while that went out on submission, started another (mainly as a distraction).

And then, in July this year, ACID was bought by Random House Children’s books.

Finally being able to tell people I’m a writer – and that I’ve got a book coming out – has been like opening a window in a room that’s been sealed up for years, and letting in a blast of fresh air. I no longer have to hide something that’s such a huge part of who I am, or pretend I spend my evenings and days off watching TV, when really, I’m surgically attached to my laptop. I’ve joined Twitter, where I’ve met loads of lovely fellow writers, and now I’m writing this blog. It’s wonderful.

But if I could go back, would I do things any differently?


I’m not for one single moment trying to say that telling people about your writing from the beginning is wrong; in fact, I admire – and envy – the confidence of people who can be so open about their ambitions from such an early stage. However, it would most certainly have been the wrong thing for me. I’ve had so many setbacks and stumbles with my writing, so many nearly-but-not-quite moments, that feeling as if everyone was watching me screw up would have stopped me doing it altogether. I needed to discover myself as a writer in private, and in doing so, find the courage to carry on.

But now? You might just have trouble shutting me up!