Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Reader Feedback

Reader feedback – that’s what every writer craves. We want to know that our words have reached into the minds of others and created a link. We want to know that the people who have lived for so long in our heads have come to life for our readers.

Today has been a great day for me as a writer, because I’ve had two lots of very positive feedback. A neighbour stopped me while I was out and said he’d finished Bad Moon Rising in a day. He hadn’t been able to put it down. Did I mind if he talked to me about it? Did I mind? What a question. Of course I didn’t mind. I was delighted.

The second thing that happened was being alerted to this review site, where Bad Moon Rising made it to the ‘Special Mentions’ list, sharing space with some wonderful books, such as Dominion by C. J. Sansom and the Booker Prize long listed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Happy days.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Review of Before I Go to Sleep

When reviewing a book that others have been raving about, as with Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson, it’s hard not to let the hype spoil the read. The theme dealing with amnesia isn’t that original, but having the protagonist also having to cope with short term memory loss gives it a new twist.

Christine wakes each morning knowing who she is, but not realising she is at least 25 years older than she believed (apparently, sometimes she thinks she is a child on waking, but that isn’t shown in the book, we are only told about it). Each day her husband has to explain what happened to cause her loss of memory and bring her up to date.

So far so intriguing – but then Christine receives a phone call from a doctor who tells her she has been keeping a journal and that she should read it. From this point onwards we follow Christine’s life through what she writes each night before going to sleep, gradually realising that all is far from well within her marriage.

The journal entries are long and incredibly detailed when one considers she writes them while her husband is in the house. I found this slightly irritating because she seems to be able to spend hours writing and yet her husband never asks what she is doing or why she goes upstairs for hours at a stretch.

Later, when she has found out that she shouldn’t believe everything she is told about her former life and has met up with a friend she has known since they met at university, the journal entries reflect her concerns and mounting confusion.

For me, the beginning is the best part of the book. The ending, although shocking, was a touch predictable. The middle got a bit tedious and it was confusing at times trying to work out when the various events had taken place – was she reading about them, or had they happened that day?

Having said all the above, it is a powerful debut and I would certainly read another by the author.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I am, therefore I kill

When I’d completed the first draft of Bad Moon Rising I knew it needed quite a bit more work before submitting it anywhere, so I went through my usual routine of rewrite, leave for a few weeks, rewrite again, leave for another few weeks, and so on. Normally after five or six rewrites I’m fully inside the heads of my characters and know them as well as I know myself.

In Bad Moon Rising all the characters were there on page, well fleshed out, and the story flowed, but I still wasn’t happy with the novel as a whole. Even though he had a unique back-story my killer was too generic – he could have been any serial killer from any novel by anyone writing in the genre. In short, he wasn’t my serial killer; he was a painting by numbers character. I knew if the book was going to have any chance whatsoever in what is a very competitive market, I had to turn him from a cardboard cut-out into a living breathing person, who just happened to be a monster when he gave in to his desires.

I stopped trying to write what I thought he would think and feel. I decided I had to become him. I had to put myself so firmly inside his head that what he said and did came from him and not from me.

We all have a dark side to our nature, but we suppress this so that we can function in society. Generally, I’m described as a kind-hearted person, always ready to lend a helping hand, so to become one with someone who is not only on the borders of insanity, but is the complete opposite of my own character wasn’t easy. I had to allow my mind to let that dark side out – and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

In fact, it was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever done as a writer – or as a human being. I found myself not only understanding the killer’s actions, but almost applauding them. My husband soon learned not to interrupt me when I was in killer mode because I would snarl even when asked something as innocuous as would I like a cup of coffee. I began to have nightmares where I acted out my killer’s fantasies and even found them disturbingly erotic.

The day I cried while writing a flashback showing how he had been abused as a child, I knew the killer and I had become one. I completed the final rewrite convinced my killer was alive in a way I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. He wasn’t just a killer, he was a man who could easily have turned out very differently had circumstances decreed otherwise. 

Did I succeed in making him unique and bringing him to life? I hope so. Crooked Cat Publishers believed in him and it seems, so far, my readers do as well.