New Release! The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 3…

This week’s post is just a quick one letting you know that I have a brand new book coming out on 22nd February!

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Three started life as a screenplay around a year ago. At that time, I had The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two merged into one large book, and the sequel which is set seven years later, This Is The Day also available. However, as I’ve said before, this story and these characters who have been with me since I was twelve, would just not leave me alone. I had this niggling idea for new material, which would move the ending of the original book,  slotting a brand new book between that one and the sequel.

It was a crazy idea, as the new material would mean making subtle changes to Parts One and Two, and the sequel, which would mean unpublishing them all, revising, revamping with new covers and then releasing again. I wasn’t sure it would be worth the risk so I decided to write the new material in screenplay form first.

I did this for a few reasons. First, I’ve always dreamt of these particular books being on the screen. I think they’d make an amazing gritty TV series with a killer soundtrack. I’ve been interested in screenwriting for some time and had Scrivener downloaded with a few screenplay ideas in motion. I also read some books and completed an online course. Also, this was a quick way to get the new material out of my head and onto paper. I used a notebook and carried it around with me, often writing into it while sitting in carparks waiting for school to finish. I’d scribble into it during brief moments of peace at home, writing alongside a coffee before I rushed back out the house. I sat with it in the evenings too, and it just kept growing.

It was so much fun and such an obsession! Of course, when it was done, I knew I had to turn the material into a novel, I just had to. There was no going back now. This was going to happen. I wrote the first draft quite quickly and after a few more sent it to my trusted beta readers. While waiting for feedback, I separated parts one and two and went over them both, cutting the word count, and rejigging a few scenes here and there so that Part Three would make sense.

Parts One and Two were originally published separately so I already had them on my Amazon dashboard, plus they already had reviews. I had to contact the cover designer to see if he could whip up new covers, or make changes to existing ones. A lot of work basically! I then had to redo This Is The Day, making more changes, adding scenes and changing the title to Part Four…

I thought I was crazy more than once but now that the brand new Part Three is ready for release, I’m really excited and certain that I made the right choice. By the time I got to the end of the Part Four edit, I already knew there was going to be a Part Five and Six.

This was very exciting! Part Five has already been written, in rough into a notebook, and Part Six is plotted. I’m not working on either of these just yet, due to other projects, but you would not believe how excited I am to get my teeth into them when the time comes!

If there is one thing I’ve learned from being an indie writer, it’s to leave things open. In fact, I’d say that ALL of my books have a potential sequel coming. Once I’ve created these character I never want it to be over, and it doesn’t have to be.

 

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The Story Of A Book

While I await and fully expect a complete set of rejections from the small publishers I have submitted The Tree Of Rebels to, I am not resting on my laurels, not for one moment. I am busy planning my launch for this YA dystopian novel, when I inevitably place it with Pronoun, along with my other books. (If you’re interested in my book launch plan, you can read about it here )

I am hoping for a July, possibly August release. At the moment I am having the cover looked at and having an illustration added to the back of the book. I am also reading the book on my kindle to check for any last lingering typos. It’s all systems go, and if I do self-publish again, I predict the next few months to be both hectic and a lot of fun.

But this all got me thinking about the journey this book has had. From the first seed of an idea to the almost finished and ready to be released product. It’s had more ups and downs than any of my other novels and has been a love/hate project in more ways than one. So for the fun of it, and for those who are interested in how an idea becomes a book, here is the story of a book from start to finish. This book, The Tree Of Rebels.

  • A seed is sown. Sometime in 2014 I became interested in the controversy surrounding companies like Monsanto and the altering and patenting of seeds. I’m not going to go into the details here and now, but after reading, researching and signing all the petitions that came my way, I found a seed had planted itself in my head and was starting to grow. I began to imagine a future world where many of my fears had come true. Where people were even more disconnected from nature, had no idea what or who destroyed the old world, and were all living in blind, grateful happiness for the ‘utopia’ the survivors exist in. Then I imagined a young girl finding something she shouldn’t…
  • A character is born…Having read and enjoyed books like The Hunger Games and The Giver, at this time I was devouring dystopian fiction and so were my daughters. I wanted to write a book that would interest them and I wanted to create a character who they could relate to. Lissie Turner is a rebel at heart, only she doesn’t know it to begin with. I went on a long journey with this kid, getting to know her, draft by draft, watching her develop, and encouraging her to resist and rebel.
  • A book was plotted…During 2015 I plotted The Tree Of Rebels in a notebook. I arranged a timeline, wrote character bios, decided on themes, and started to write scenes and pieces of dialogue. I also had a ton of research to do…

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  • It all began on Wattpad…The very first draft of this book was written straight onto Wattpad, with people reading and commenting as I went. I shared the chapters to social media and tried to stick to a schedule of writing a chapter a day. I even had one lovely reader design a fantastic cover for me, which provided the inspiration for the cover I later had put together.
  • It got hijacked by another book…Just as I was about to start writing The Tree Of Rebels I got an idea for another book. I really did not want this to happen. I was all geared up to write this dystopian adventure that would surely enthral my daughters when a new idea and a very persistent character started knocking. The idea for Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was so strong, I had to start writing things down instantly. And so began to two-year battle between these two very different novels. With me working on one, only to hand it over to betas and work on the other, then swap around and so on. This was not easy!
  • Every time I thought I was finished, I wasn’t…If you are a loyal reader of this blog (and wow, thank you if you are!) then you will already know how many drafts this novel has had. So many I have lost count. Every time I got to the end, it still didn’t feel right. I ended up leaving it alone for months, while I finished Elliot Pie and started another YA novel set in the present day, and at that time I had no inclination whatsoever to rewrite The Tree of Rebels. I’d had enough of it.
  • When I picked it up again, I realised it was done…Funny, that. After finishing what I hoped was the last draft of Elliot Pie and sending to a final beta reader, and completing the messy first draft of the present day YA novel, I decided to look at The Tree of Rebels again. Was it useless? Did it need an entire rewrite? Would it ever see the light of day? And weirdly, when I read it through, I felt something I had not experienced before with this book. Relief and satisfaction and a sense of letting it go. I amended a handful of typos and left everything else alone.
  • I’m proud of the messages in this book…I am proud of this book. Finally. It’s been a long and difficult slog. I’ve struggled with so many aspects of it. I am currently reading it through and enjoying it. I like Lissie Turner and I think her journey into rebellion is an important one.
  • Nearly there now…All that is left to do is finish the read-through, amend any typos and send the document to the lovely girl who does my formatting for Pronoun. I will also send it to the other lovely girl who does my Createspace formatting. The cover is basically done but we’re just playing around with fonts at the moment, and there will be an extra illustrationo at the back of the book. My launch plan is written and in the next few weeks, I will decide a date for release!

And that’s it. That’s the story of this book. That’s the journey it has had; from an idea that grew while scrolling through my Facebook feed… to something that is almost ready to be released into the world.

Second Draft Joy

Back in December, I penned this post Why My Favourite Draft Is The Second, while I was busy writing the first draft of a YA novel called A Song For Bill Robinson. I was enjoying the first draft, but also realistic about its ugliness, and I was excited about going back to the second draft for the reasons I mentioned in the post.

Well, three months on, I am now well into that second draft, and enjoying it every bit as much as I said I would! It is easier than the first because the basic framework is there and the hard work has been done getting the story out of my head. I already know I can make it better and I have already listed and made notes of how to do this. The second draft is just fun!

I had to have a think about this earlier. Has this been the case with all my books? And I think the answer is yes. The first draft is the hardest for me. The later drafts are the most tedious because you know the story, and really you want to be writing something new, but you have to polish this thing up, cut bits out, sharpen it and refine it and make it as good as it was when it first appeared in your head. I think of the first and the final drafts as the real hard graft. The second, for me, is much more fun.

can you tell I'mhaving fun-

In many ways, the second is more of a read through than a rewrite or a detailed edit. After a break, I am familiarising myself with the story and getting to know the characters again. I read through each chapter, getting a sense of them and their motivations, making notes and finding my way back into it all. Of course, I fix any typos I come across, and I do a lot of deleting unnecessary and repetitive words or phrases. I tidy it up as much as I can, but at the same time, I know the more brutal cuts, the reshuffles and the changes in direction will all come much later. This is still very early days, and I want to enjoy it. I don’t feel the need to make any major decisions at this point.

At the moment, I am totally addicted to this particular story, which is also how I felt when I first wrote it. I suppose it’s more familiar ground for me as an author and a person. A gritty, contemporary YA drama with lots of dysfunctional family behaviours and social issues thrown in. I feel a passion for it. I want to tell these stories. And there are so many stories in this novel…

It’s fast paced. Which is good. I hope! On later drafts I might feel the need to slow things down a bit, my niggling worry being that it might come across as unrealistic for teens to have a life this dramatic. It’s literally a roller coaster of events, repercussions, consequences and drama. It’s full of highs and lows with plenty of unrequited love, dangerous lust, and familial miscommunication and resentment. Oh and of course, a rather wonderful soundtrack (the male protagonist is a talented singer) which ranges from The Four Tops and The Foundations, to Arctic Monkeys and Jamie T. There is just so much to play around with!

And I know I haven’t got it all right yet. I know I need to keep fleshing out the characters and finding stuff out about them. I know I need to work on the visuals, the environment, such as their homes and bedrooms and so on. I tend to forget about all that stuff on a first draft, knowing that no one else is going to read it for a long time. I just want to get the nitty gritty down first.

But at the moment I am enjoying the ride, and just felt the need to share that with you. Adding bits and cutting bits. Reading it like a reader and bloody enjoying the process. I can’t get enough of it.

I doubt I will feel this way by the time draft ten comes around, so this is why I savour the second draft so much. I know the time will come when I almost come to hate this book. I have been there with The Tree Of Rebels many times, and Elliott Pie reached that point just recently before I sent it out to a second round of betas. I was sick of it. I am sick of it. Diving into this much fresher book has been just what I needed.

So, for me anyway, I give my thanks to the wonderful second draft, with the foundations laid down and the really hard work yet to come. I shall enjoy the party while it lasts.

 

Diversity In Books

About a year ago I noticed something about my books. I realised that all of my characters were white and straight, with the exception of the head teacher in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Or at least they were white in my head; obviously readers may have imagined them differently. I have to admit I felt a bit ashamed by this. It was never intentional of course, not to write about more diverse characters, it’s just that I’ve always lived in a very white area, where everyone I grew up with was white and so on. As for writing characters that were gay, this had also never occurred to me, I guess, because I’m not gay.

After realising this, I decided to change the ethnicity of my main character Elliot in Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human nature. It wasn’t a huge change. I just mentioned that his absent father was Indonesian, making him mixed race, with dark skin and hair, unlike his mother who has blonde hair and fair skin. Not much is made of this in the book. It did, however, tie in nicely with the hatred his mother Laura feels for the people who live in her claustrophobic neighbourhood, such as Tony, who likes to knock on people’s doors to warn them there are immigrants living behind them.

At the time, I spoke to a lot of other people about the topic of diversity in books. My daughters thought I was right to change Elliot’s ethnicity, and were quite appalled that all my characters so far had been white and straight. Other people said to change his ethnicity seemed a bit like a token gesture, and if he was white in my head I should leave him like that. I’ve since thought about the decision in other ways too. For instance, does a white writer have any right to write about a character who has a different cultural background to them? I would argue that they do, as long as they have done their research if research is needed. In this case, it was not. Racism is not an issue for Elliot, only his mother, who cannot stand the Little England mentality of people like Tony. His mother is in a state of despair about the state of the world, and for example, cannot understand the callous attitude people are having towards the refugee crisis.

I decided to leave Elliot as mixed race and think about it again later. If he persisted as blonde-haired and blue-eyed in my head, then I would change him back. But for me now, after about a million drafts, he is darker skinned than his mother, with very dark hair. He’s become this Elliot in my head, so I’m pretty sure that’s the way he’s going to stay.

While Elliot Pie was with beta readers, I took a break from it and wrote a rough draft of a YA novel about an alcoholic teenage singer. I’ve blogged about this story idea in the post  Untold Stories , as the original story was one I penned aged 16 and then discovered in an old suitcase under my bed. In the original story, again, everyone was white, straight and working class. In this new version, as I was writing it, the characters changed. One of the secondary characters became gay, and the main character, Bill became bisexual. Well, I say bisexual, but this is not entirely confirmed by the end of the novel, and he certainly doesn’t waste any time feeling confused or upset about what he is or isn’t. He just has a lot of fun kissing his best friends, one of whom is female and one of whom is male.

Now, again, why did I do this? I think there are several reasons. I think because diversity in books has been on my mind. It’s been on my mind because I too have noticed how many of the books I read contain, straight white characters and this has started to annoy me. It’s been on my mind because of my children, who are, to my great pride, growing up to be the sort of people who are accepting of anyone of any culture, ethnicity or sexual preference. In many ways, my children educate me on the issues facing the LGBT community. Plus, I feel that with recent political events, and the horrific rise of hate crimes against ethnic minorities and LGBT  people, we all have a responsibility to stand up for equality and decency and kindness.

With all this on my mind in recent months, it’s no wonder it crept into this rough first draft. It was not intentional, but rather an organic and natural progression. It felt right for the characters and added to their storylines hugely.  Have I got it right? Who knows at this point? I will see how it all reads once I get around to the second draft.

And as for Elliot Pie’s ethnicity, this still feels like the right thing for the book. So, what do you think? As readers, do you feel the books you read have enough diverse characters? Is diversity in books important to you? Do you ever feel certain groups in society or ignored,

So, what do you think? As readers, do you feel the books you read have enough diverse characters? Is diversity in books important to you? Do you ever feel certain groups in society are ignored, sidelined or stereotyped in literature? What about you writers? Do you write about diverse characters, and if you do, is it intentional or natural? Do you tend to write about characters who are similar to yourself? Or do you feel writers have a responsibility to open people’s minds up to other lives, cultures and backgrounds? I would love to know your thoughts, so please feel free to join in the conversation!