It’s release day for the YA book I have co-written with Sim Sansford! We are so excited to share Hangman’s Revenge with you and can’t wait to see what you make of our protagonist’s JJ and Darcie. To kick off here is an interview with JJ Carson…
Who is your best friend? Until recently I didn’t have a best friend, in fact it felt like all I had were enemies in this town. But then Darcie stood up for me, helped me fight off the bullies and since then I’ve got to know her better. I think she is my best friend. I hope so.
Who is your worst enemy? Well I’ve got a few. I already told you this town hates me. There’s a group of boys who kick my arse nearly every day because they think I’m a freak and Jared Wheeler is the ring-leader, so yeah, him.
What do you think people think of you? I know what most people think of me. They either pity me because my mum is locked up for killing my dad, or they fear me because they think I’m going to turn out to be as crazy as her. Or they just hate me because they think I’m weird. Yeah,, weird. They all think I’m weird.
What do you wish people knew about you? Ah, I don’t really care. They can all piss off. Well, I suppose I’d like them to know that I didn’t kill my dad so I’m not crazy like my mum. But I don’t think they’d care anyway… I suppose, if I’m honest, I wish they knew how lonely I’ve been.
What’s your biggest fear? Turning out like my mum. Losing the plot, turning to violence in a heartbeat, killing someone. I’m dark inside, I know I am. I’m scared it’ll get out.
What’s your biggest hope? That Darcie and I become close. That she sticks by me, whatever happens. And I hope me and Uncle Henry get on better one day. That would really help a lot.
What’s your biggest secret? There is a darkness inside of me and it’s getting worse. I can see it now in the form of a kind of mist. It likes it when I get angry and it can destroy… If people knew about this, they would lock me up like my mum.
What is the worst thing you have done to another person? I stepped in and tried to be the hero – I tried to stand up to Jared and got caught in the middle of something else instead. He was hurting Darcie – I didn’t even really know her then, but I stopped him. Trouble is, the mist took over and now he’s in hospital…
What kind of friend are you? Hard to say, seeing as how I’ve not really had any until now but I’d probably be grumpy and moody I reckon. I’m used to being on my own so I’m not used to friendship. I’m loyal though and I hate bullies, so I’d be the type of friend that would stand up for you even if it got me in trouble.
What are your worst habits? Uncle Henry would say I don’t do enough around the house but I’d disagree. I do loads. I think Darcie might say I’m grumpy, maybe a bit cynical and negative at times. I’ve got a bad temper which obviously I am trying not to let out.
What is one thing about yourself that you would change if you could? Ah, tricky question. I should say the mist, the darkness inside me, because if I got rid of that, I could maybe be normal. But I also don’t want to get rid of it because without it I’m helpless and lost.
What is one thing about yourself that you would never change? Again, tricky. I don’t want to change the mist even though I maybe should… But also my art. I wouldn’t change that. I wouldn’t be me without art and it’s helped me so much.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? I don’t know. Not here. There is something wrong with this town and the people in it. I’d like to get away… I don’t know where. I can kind of see me and Darcie running off together and maybe travelling, maybe in a campervan or something cool like that! Other than that, I really have no idea. I don’t have a lot going for me, to be honest.
What is on your bucket list? – Hmm. I guess a romance with Darcie would be top, but don’t tell her that. I’d die. Seeing my mum free again would be awesome. Getting on with Uncle Henry would be good too. I’d like to get better at art and maybe travel to some cool places with Darcie.
About a year ago my business partner and fellow indie author, Sim Alec Sansford, messaged me asking if I had ever considered writing a book with someone else. The answer was no. It had never occurred to me and I have always wondered how on earth writers manage collaborative writing projects. It just seemed far too complicated and not at all something I would ever want to try. Sim had an idea for a book and wondered if I would consider writing it with him. I think if anyone else had asked me I would have given an instant no. But Sim and I get on really well as business partners at Chasing Driftwood Writing Group and feel the same passion for writing and for our characters. I’d read some of his work and he’d read some of mine, and I had to admit, it felt like we could possibly pull it off.
So, I agreed. I figured, at the very least it would be an interesting experience and one I could learn from! Little was I to know how Sim’s tentative request and fledgling book idea would snowball!
Roughly a year later, we have completed two books in a paranormal YA series and we are currently racing towards the finish line of the final book in the trilogy. We never set out to write a series, but we soon realised that’s exactly what it was becoming.
I’ll probably blog again when the books are finished and I’ll spend more time telling you about them, but for now I just wanted to write about how the whole process has worked. Because it’s worked in a really strange and unexpected, dare I say, chaotic way!
So, as you probably already know, I have a certain process when I write a book. It goes a bit like this:
I get a character in my head who grows and grows until they get so real and so noisy, I have to start writing it down.
I start a notebook and start adding the ideas for a story, and it’s the character suggesting the ideas, not me.
When I’m able to start the book, I plan out a certain amount of chapters, write all my character bios, and get going.
I do any research along the way, as and when I need to. The first draft normally takes me about three months then I will spend probably about a year doing further drafts, edits and rewrites. By about draft 5 or 6 I will send it to beta readers and then do another rewrite/draft depending on what they said. Eventually it will go to my wonderful editor and proof-reader, then back to me for another round and then finally I will start to organise the publishing process.
Everything goes in the notebook, so I can have it there handy as I write and can jot down future ideas for chapters and scenes, character info and more. In my head at least, it’s kind of an organised process. It might look messy to anyone else, but it works well for me.
Writing books with another author has been so different!
We started off with good intentions and I even started a little notebook of ideas and character bios so we could keep track of who was who and so on. I also started writing chapter outlines to send back and forth so we could keep an eye on what we had written and ideas we had coming up.
All of this fell by the wayside though as the story took control!
Somehow, and I am really not sure how, we have managed to write almost three books in a year purely by swapping messages with each other on Facebook!
Initially Sim had a vague idea and we started creating a character each. He wanted to write the female character, Darcie and I wanted to write the male, JJ. I’m not sure when we decided that they would have super powers, but we did! I wrote the first chapter purely by instinct and luckily it seemed to be what Sim was thinking too. He quickly responded and off we went. Mostly it has been a really fast process, with us swapping chapters most days or every couple of days. We both work and write our own books too, so I am surprised we got so much done. We did keep each chapter fairly short and snappy and ended most on cliff hangers to set up the next chapter, so I guess we helped each other out a bit there! We really didn’t get too stuck too often.
Every time we read the other’s chapter, we would send a message asking what ideas would work in ours so we didn’t mess up the flow of scenes. We would both suggest stuff that could happen and with every chapter we wrote, more and more of the story unfolded before us. We got really excited and our messages reflect this! Once we got going, there was really no stopping us. We whizzed through the first two books and inevitably our original ideas grew more complex, we introduced more characters and storylines and sub-plots.
I think it’s fair to say that we are both totally in love with these characters we have created and the world they live in. We have created a strange little town called Fortune’s Well, which is loosely based on Sim’s childhood home of Dorchester. I recently visited Dorchester and was so excited to see in person some of the locations we have used in the books!
To start with we were both a bit nervous when writing the other person’s character into our chapter. But as the story grew and the characters evolved, we both felt we knew JJ and Darcie equally. Now I think it just feels natural to write both characters and we don’t feel we have to check with each other that we got their mannerisms or speech right.
So, the usual way I write books kind of fell aside and our original plans for writing these books also got left behind. Somehow we just muddled our way through using messages. I’m surprised it worked but there you are, we are nearly at the end of the trilogy and both of us are so excited to share it with everyone when it’s ready.
It’s been a really refreshing and fun addition to my writing life. Most evenings I work on my current WIP, but if I get sent a chapter from Sim, I will read it, digest it and then respond as soon as I have an idea. This way we have both managed to carry on with our own work as well as our co-writing project. Our series is so different to anything I have written before (paranormal, kids with super powers!!) and that’s been really exciting as well. We both love YA but I normally stick to gritty realism, so to dip into supernatural/paranormal/super powers territory has been the best fun ever. I really love this series and these characters and it’s inspired me to try these genres more in the future.
It’s been crazy, unexpected, exciting, challenging, messy, and above all else chaotic, but I have loved every moment of it. So much so, that we have already decided to work on another series together when this one is finished. This time its based on an idea I had that came from a short story I wrote. I think that if writing together worked once, there is every chance it will work again!
I will post about these books another time but for now, here is the blurb Sim came up with!
In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.
For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out.
Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood. Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within.
I used to do a feature on my blog called Indie Book of The Month. Like a lot of things it started with good intentions and then fell by the wayside. Basically, I used to interview an indie author if I had read and enjoyed their book and I’d post the interview plus the author’s links on here. I’d like to do more to support fellow indie authors, as I know so many and they are often very talented yet under-rated or unknown authors. It’s a constant struggle for indie authors to get their books seen so anything we can do to help each other is a bonus. With that in mind, I’ve changed the feature to Indie Author Of The Month. These will still mostly be authors I have read myself, but not exclusively. They will certainly all be authors I follow and whose content I enjoy. So, please may I introduce you to the lovely K.M. Allan who I have been following for a while now. Her debut YA novel Blackbirch: The Beginning came out last month and I enjoyed it very much.
1) Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?
It’s called Blackbirch: The Beginning and it’s the first book in a four-book Fantasy YA series. It centers around 17-year-old Josh Taylor, who has suffered a family tragedy and been forced to move back to the town he was born in, but can no longer remember. It’s not the only thing he’s forgotten, and when he starts having weird dreams about monsters and magic, long-buried secrets and danger wreck havoc with his life. It’s for 14 year-olds and above.
2) Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
It’s been a long one. I’ve been writing this series on and off since 2001, and started querying it back in 2015. After 22 rejections, it was signed with a small press in 2019, but it wasn’t a good fit and we parted ways. I then decided to self-publish, about a month before release, and that was a real learning curve. I have enjoyed it, though, and now the first book is finally out in the world.
3) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember wanting to be anything else. I’ve always been a big reader and wanting to write stories was just a natural progression.
4) What is your typical writing day like?
Since June 2019 I’ve been writing at 6am with the #6amAusWriters on Twitter, so my day always starts by checking in with them and doing something writing-related for at least an hour. After that, it all depends on what’s happening during the rest of the day. I basically try to write whenever I can sit down at my keyboard. Some days that’s only for ten minutes, other days I’m lucky enough to write for hours.
5) What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)
I’m a total pantser, so I rarely plot, especially a first draft. I’ll start with an idea for a scene or a piece of dialogue and write until I come up with something I can work with. I get a lot of ideas taking walks, or just doing something boring like cleaning and letting my mind wander. Motivation is probably something I struggle with the most, but I find having a routine and writing schedule (i.e blogging on Tuesdays, editing Wednesdays, writing one chapter a day) helps.
6) What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?
The support. I’ve been part of the writing community through social media for 5 years, and my writing blog for the last 3, and the support I got from these communities when my book was released really blew me away.
7) What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?
Definitely the technical process of publishing a book. There’s a lot of things to learn, and some of it is not immediately clear. It can be very time consuming and frustrating.
8) What can we expect from you next?
I am planning to release each book in the series 6 months apart, so what’s next is book 2. I plan to get that out in July, and it’s with an editor now. In the meantime, I’m working on writing/editing books 3 and 4.
9) Tell us three fun facts about you
I am an identical twin. I believe there is a Simpsons reference for every situation in life. I can’t not finish a book or a movie, even if they’re bad.
10) What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
Everyone has their own writing journey, find yours and don’t compare it to others. Work out how you write best, stick to it, and remember that you can always learn more.
Thank you so much to K.M. Allan for allowing us a glimpse into her writing life. If you would like to find out more about her and her writing, please follow the links below. Blackbirch: The Beginning is available in ebook and paperback and I can guarantee it is a great read and a fantastic start to a series!
K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. When she’s not writing, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need. Visit her blog at www.kmallan.com to discover the secrets of the universe, or at the very least, some good writing tips.
Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.
But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!
Bill was lying to both Pete and
Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t
know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He
couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much
more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting
entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too
obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing
He spent the rest of the week trying
to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs
like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.
Last time he had been showing off.
He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one
on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened
to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like
that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.
He’d mouthed it in silence to
begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill
smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them
down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through
Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?
Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and
The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could
lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when
he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about
But now? What now?
That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like
he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all,
and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like
her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk
around this cesspit with his head held high.
This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire
estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to
pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including
McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.
Bill thought about drink warming
his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall,
and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and
comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth
and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The
Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those
old soul songs.
He could sing something new he was
getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark
stuff lately which wouldn’t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went
there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for
hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.
Then there was his bloody dad.
They’d always clashed, Bill thought,
as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said
they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that.
They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved
company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the
sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his
voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could
have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to
himself. He could never be still or silent.
His dad was one of those short,
angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his
shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the
top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.
But those bastards had made him
Bill didn’t think he would ever
forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his
cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through.
Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had
not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.
And it pissed him off.
Maybe blood was thicker than water
after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing
it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think
about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks.
His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself
getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was
Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.
Something pulled at his mind then.
Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something
was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it
kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and
down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse,
something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell
into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short
choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.
He decided to sneak out anyway. He
could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned
at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin
past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his
arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to
the window, leaned out and looked around.
‘That all you got?’ he roared
without thinking. ‘Come on then!’
He regretted his outburst when his
father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have
made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the
middle of the carpet.
‘What the bleeding-hell?’
Bill pulled the window shut and
whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the
brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright
‘This just come through the
window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’
‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he
responded sulkily, pushing past him.
Andy rushed to the window where he
yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’
‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy
stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’
Bill followed him from the room.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’
Andy stopped and faced him on the
stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I
didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?’
Andy trotted down the rest of the
stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not
sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’
Bill made a noise of disgust and
walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder.
‘You’re wasting your time!’
Bill stalked around the kitchen,
shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into
the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.
‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit
in here and talk to him.’
Bill threw up his hands. ‘About
‘About everything!’ Andy growled
in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know
there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone
Bill slumped into a chair, folded
his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the
brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins
‘You’re gonna look like a dick when
whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’
‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him
again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to
believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang
decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think
about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’
Andy spun around and marched back
into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the
dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands.
Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration
through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief
glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader
‘Don’t even think about it,
Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you
PC Collins knocked on the door
twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and
his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.
‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him
saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit
Bill sighed, slumping forward
again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could
have been anyone!’
Collins flipped open his notebook
and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might
be right, but we have to consider what’s already gone on, don’t we? Now
obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage
was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’
Bill breathed out and in again,
willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’
he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’
‘No, course not, but that’s not
the point right now.’
‘What is then?’
‘The point is keeping an eye on
the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate.
Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing
when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the
whole, you see?’
Bill shook his head and glowered.
Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you
will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’
‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned
away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or
‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And
you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’
Bill thought briefly about
punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’
‘Look, can I ask you something?’
Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of
Bill scratched his head, then
pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I
thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still
wouldn’t help me, would it?’
Collins closed the notebook,
folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you
have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’
‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help,
will it? I can’t prove anything.’
‘Well, let’s say you thought you
had an idea, it would depend on why.
So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’
Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’
Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No
recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’
Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing
obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You
need actual proof, don’t you?’
Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you
do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what
their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to
search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know,
sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night,
or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’
Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would
be that stupid.’
‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’
Bill shook his head. If there had
been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would
provide alibis for each other.
‘There were four of them, you
say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means not all of those four
will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’
‘They might,’ Bill
corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are
they? You can’t promise me anything.’
‘I can protect you.’
Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you
can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’
Collins slipped his notebook into
the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’
‘Has there been any progress on
the Lewis Matthews murder?’
‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to
discuss that case with anyone.’
‘I’m not just anyone. It might
affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’
‘Why is the biggest
problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid.
Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’
‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’
Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle
we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I
can say about it to you right now, okay?’
Bill nodded, knowing the officer
had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he
reasoned. Enough for Summer.