The Tree Of Rebels and Disconnection From Nature

So it’s finally here! The day has finally arrived! Sometimes when in the middle of writing and rewriting and crafting a book, publication day can feel like an impossibility. Something so far in the future it feels like it will never happen. The Tree Of Rebels felt like an impossible thing more than once. This was a very tough book to write and one I had a constant love/hate relationship with. It’s very different from my other books and I wrote it with an audience in mind, something I’d never done before.

As I’ve mentioned before, the seed of this book was sown while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’d kept seeing these petitions to sign to stop Monsanto patenting seeds. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but what I did read and digest alarmed me and got the cogs turning in my head. I’ve often thought about nature and who owns it. Have you ever walked through the woods or across a field, only to be stopped by a fence and a Private Property sign? Have you ever stood on a high hill and looked down at the landscape and realised how restricted our movements actually are? How the paths and roads have been laid out for you and how signs and fences stop us roaming as we once did?

The more I thought about large corporations owning seeds and nature and having that control over the food chain, the more I imagined a frightening dystopian world where growing your own food is banned. This might seem like a far fetched idea right now, but for some people this is already becoming a reality. Believe it or not, there are places in America where people are not allowed to have backyard gardens or chickens. Where people can be arrested for attempting to gather rainwater. The frightening future is already on its way…

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Distrustful of GMO’s, hormones in meat, anti-biotics in milk and pesticides on fruit and vegetable, more and more people are turning to growing their own food. Self-sufficiency is becoming popular again, and you can’t deny this is a form of rebellion, of taking back control. It’s vital for our planet too. The meat and dairy industry is literally killing the earth.

Dystopian future in mind, I already knew I wanted to write a young adult book. The protagonist, 13-year-old Lissie had been evolving in my imagination for some time, and now she finally had a place to play and grow. The book undoubtedly evolved into something more than I had envisioned. It’s not just about seeds or a post-apocalyptic future, it’s about rebellion, questioning the status quo, defying your parents and searching for the truth, no matter who it hurts. All classic issues in the complicated journey of growing up.

But one of the main messages I hope people pick up from this book if they do indeed pick up any is the consequences of becoming disconnected from nature.

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. A head in the clouds type of girl. I love nothing more than a walk down the lane, to the river, or across the fields, the common, or the woods. Something special happens to us when we are in nature, when we walk barefoot upon the earth, when we touch trees, smell leaves and view flowers and wild animals. Sometimes I think I might be a bit odd. I have very strong urges to touch and hug trees. They call to me, they really do. Once I lay my hand on the trunk of an ancient Oak, I find it very hard to pull away. I can’t get over the fact they are helping me to breathe! They are eating pollution. Without them, we would all die. The same goes for the humble bee and other vital pollinators. We simply cannot afford to ignore nature. We are nature. And I truly worry that many of us have forgotten.

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Where I live is very beautiful, but I fear that others do not see it. When they race their cars down the narrow lane and hurl their rubbish into the bushes, I fear they never linger long enough to see the beauty and majesty of the trees. I fear they have no clue that they would die if the trees were not there. I’m fascinated by the unseen lives of birds, insects, and animals. I’ll stare at birds in the sky, watching their flight, hearing their cry, wondering where they are going and where they live and what they do. I want to know. I want to be part of their world. Sometimes I feel like I am trespassing. Especially come dusk when the bats start circling and the owls start hooting. This is their time, not mine. How they must despise us, I often think.

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I think the thing we are often missing is gratitude and wonder. I am in awe of nature which makes me want to protect and nurture it. Sadly, others just don’t see it at all. In truth, this means they do not see themselves. They are disconnected from it, therefore they don’t care about it or appreciate it. If you don’t care about something, or see the value in it, you’re not going to go out of your way to protect it, are you?

In Lissie’s world, the people are taken care of. They are housed and fed and educated and worked. There is no war or violence. They have returned to traditional ways, fearful of the technological world that enabled war and destruction to almost wipe out the entire human race. But in order to keep them contained, the people are separate from nature. Food is grown and delivered to them. Animals are raised in domes . Unwanted plants are circled and torn up. Wild animals are feared and killed. They know very little of the natural world. And this is all sold to them as the perfect world. A society without war and hunger and homelessness. A safe, sheltered, catered for life. It’s Lissie who resists this version of life and strives to find out more about the outside world. A true rebel, spurred on by the dying words of her Great-Grandmother, she seeks the truth. What happened to the Old World? Who destroyed it and why?

Please feel free to leave a comment! What are your fears for the future? Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books, and if so why? How do you feel about the issues of humans becoming disconnected from nature? What can we do about any of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Did Choosing An Audience Ruin My Book?

I don’t know for sure, but it feels like it.

Let me explain. I am, of course, talking about The Tree Of Rebels, a book that once seemed so simple in its concept and execution. I tend to write quite hard hitting, gritty stuff, and I decided (rightly or wrongly) that I wanted to write a book my children could read. Specifically, I was aiming it at my daughters, who were at the time 11 and 12 and devouring books like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.

It wasn’t like I invented an idea to try to fit this genre and audience. I already had the idea for a dystopian future (one I am genuinely scared of). But I have to admit, this was the first time I ever sat down and tried to write a book knowing who the audience would potentially be.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing your audience. Knowing your audience is key! How else will you know how to describe your book to potential readers? How will you know what categories to choose on Amazon etc? How will you know what cover and font to go for? All these things matter!

In fact, not knowing exactly who my audience were caused me no end of problems in the early days. You see, I didn’t know what kind of writer I was, because I had never really had to think about it before. The first two books I released, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and The Mess Of Me featured young adults as the main characters, but this was purely incidental. In fact, if anything, I didn’t consider myself a YA writer at all and even kind of rejected the idea. I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself, I guess. I wanted adults to like my books too. It wasn’t deliberate that my characters were all young; that’s just the way it worked out. Or so I thought.

Truth is, I didn’t really understand the YA market at that time. I hadn’t looked into, or researched it as a phenomena. Since then, I’m glad to say I have learnt a lot and come to terms with the fact, that although not exclusively a YA author, YA is what I do best, YA is in my heart and soul, and YA is undoubtedly what I tend to seek out for reading material. I just didn’t really connect the dots in the beginning.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is this. It can be good to know your audience before, during and after you write a book. It would have made things a lot easier for me when releasing The Mess Of Me if I had got on board with this and fully embraced and accepted the YA market I was aiming at.

BUT I do feel that knowing who to aim The Tree Of Rebels at has had a negative impact on writing the book. It felt like there was someone looking over my shoulder the whole time, saying no, don’t do it like that, that’s not how you write this sort of book! Looking back, knowing which audience I was aiming at definitely changed the way I approached it, making it one of the most challenging books I’ve ever written. I mean, none of the others ever felt that difficult, you know? They just kind of, happened. It’s not the only thing I can blame it on, and anyone who reads this blog regularly will know how many issues I have had with the book including the ones talked about in  Getting To Know Your Characters  and Final Draft? Patience is the key…

I’ve done so many drafts now that I have lost count. I have sent it out to beta readers three times and received very, very detailed edits and critique. I originally wrote the damned thing on Wattpad, so I had feedback on the very first version as it happened, and then posted later versions on there too. Lots of people have been involved and all of them have been incredibly helpful. Before I started this latest draft my intention was to fill it in more, add some detail and meat about how these people exist, but then towards the end I realised there was still something major missing.

Me.

'The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself. If you can amuse yourself for the length of time it takes to write a book, the publisher and the reader can, and will come later'-Patricia

 

It hit me one day while talking to my daughter.

I wrote this book to please them, and to please a certain type of reader who likes a certain type of book. I have never ever done that before. All of my other books were written to please me. They were written to scratch an itch. They were written to get the noisy people out of my head and onto the page. They were written out of passion and necessity. There was no other reason to write them other than that I simply had to. I’ve never known at the time of writing, who would like this book. Even with my current work-in-progress Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, I have absolutely no idea who this book would be aimed at or how I should even describe it! That for me, is familiar territory!

Of course, with my other books, on further drafts and edits I did begin to write and rewrite with my reader in mind. You have to! But they were not there in the beginning. It was just me.

So, how has this revelation helped me with The Tree Of rebels, you might ask? Is it totally ruined?

No, of course not. I still believe in the story and the characters. I have even started a sequel! But for now, I  have decided to leave this book alone. Put it to one side and focus on something else. I have decided to forget who it was aimed at, and essentially write it again. I have decided to write it the way I write all my books. I have decided to let it be whatever it needs to be and to stop trying to sculpt it into something I think it should be. In other words, forget about the perceived audience…For now.

I have a feeling it is now going to become an altogether darker book. But this is good. And would you believe it, while walking the dogs the other day, I had further revelations. Extra characters and another storyline, an important one, to feed into the others. It might make it a longer book. There might be more cutting. I’ve written the ideas down and that’s it for now. I am still not going back there yet!

But when I do I will be rewriting it entirely and writing it for me.

What do you think? How do you write a book? With the audience already decided or with just yourself to please?  Is anyone in your head when you write that first draft or do you really have no idea what sort of reader would enjoy it? Please feel free to comment!