While Badlands may be my first published novel, it’s actually the eighth novel I’ve written overall (not to mention the countless short stories in that time).
The journey began back in 1996 when, inspired by the Lost Boys & The Craft, I began scribbling a witches vs vampires story in exercise books. This eventually became my first full novel, Blessed Be.
In 2001, I followed this up with The Garden, a Herbert & Hutson inspired Horror novel about a deserted patch of land disrupted by a girl who trespasses on it, releasing a malevolent entity that had been bound within.
In 2002, I switched genres and wrote an epic Fantasy novel called The Gateway that was shortlisted for the WHSmith Raw Talent competition but never got picked up.
By 2004, I’d switched genre again and wrote a magic realism book called The Man Who Changed His Past. For the first time I wrote about the world I knew, the culture and place I’d grown up in. The book was stronger, and although I hadn’t realised it, gave me a glimpse of the direction I wanted to go in.
In 2006, I embraced that direction fully, writing a book called Siblings (for a while it also went under the name of (s)Kin). There was a lot of me in this book. It was set in my home town of Dagenham, in the summer of 2002, and featured a lot of the places I knew from my youth. The plot smashed Romeo & Juliet and To Kill A Mockingbird together, and when I posted the first few chapters on YouWriteOn the response was overwhelmingly positive.
By 2008, I was pitching it to agents & publishers and it came close to being picked up (a publisher wrote me a lovely rejection letter telling me it had been a choice between my book and one other and unfortunately for me, they went with the other book).
At the same time as I was pitching Siblings, I was working on a new novel called Ruins. Feedback from agents and publishers who had read Siblings suggested it was more a Young Adult novel, so based on that feedback, I wrote Ruins with the YA market in mind.
Set on the Norfolk Broads, the story was hampered by a convoluted plot with multiple viewpoint characters. It’s still sitting in my files and it’s been rewritten on and off since 2008. I may come back to it, who knows, but as it stands it was a dud.
After Ruins, life (or redundancy and retraining) got in the way, and I didn’t write another novel until 2014 when, inspired by a visit to Sydney, Australia I wrote Half a World Away (or as it’s now known, the book that Willow ruined).
I worked on that off and on for four years, in between trying to knock Ruins into shape and occasional resubmitting Siblings again, but nothing really clicked.
Until that little note on August 2017 which set me on the path to writing Badlands, and publication.
So what’s the lesson here? For me it’s keep going.
Each book I wrote taught me something about either myself as a writer and what kind of stories I wanted to tell, or the nuts and bolts of writing and how to better apply them next time.
The same is true even of Badlands. Whilst it is about to be published I learned lessons writing it that I’ve applied to my new work-in-progress Bleak Waters. I’m sure it will be the same with my next book, and the one after that.
If you’re an unpublished writer, persevere. Learn from each project and keep going. It only takes one “yes” from a publisher or agent to change your life.
Badlands in published through Darkstroke on 21st January 2022.