Why would an author write a sequel to a novel neatly wrapped-up not just with an emphatic conclusion, but with an epilogue to take care of any irritating loose-ends? Does the sequel mean that the original novel didn’t tell the story it should have and was somehow incomplete?
With The Colony, it was a bit more complicated than that. The novel was emphatically my best-selling digital title, which made its flaws all the more irritating to me. And I was very thankful earlier this year when I was given the opportunity to right (or perhaps write) what was wrong with it. The revised version is worthy of its premise, which modesty aside, I think a good one.
The two sequels making up the Colony trilogy are original, stand-alone tales nourished by the mythology of my fictional New Hope Island. I didn’t want to repeat myself (which would have been as boring for me as for you); I just felt that New Hope and its dark history and the dubious characters linked with that blighted locale had much more to offer. I felt compelled to go back to that unwelcoming granite rock in its wilderness of cold Atlantic water. And quite naturally, I wanted my readers to come along and enjoy the outing with me. What’s wrong with that?
It’s a rhetorical question, but of course there are things profoundly wrong with New Hope Island, as those of you who’ve read The Colony will know. If it whetted your appetite for more, here it is.
This is out now and the third installment in the trilogy (already written) will follow early in 2016. It remains only to say something seasonal, so I will. I wish every one of you a healthy, happy, peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
People have misconceptions about writers who dwell on sinister subjects, so I’m offering this as evidence of normality. This picture was taken almost exactly 18 years ago and I’m on the impossibly steep learning curve of fatherhood about three months in. That ongoing trauma probably accounts for the slightly desperate gaze at the camera.
Gabriel was a light sleeper. We lived on Hercules Road in North Lambeth, close to St Thomas’s Hospital. Every passing ambulance siren would wake him from his nap. Getting him off was a matter of rocking him gently in my arms with Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate playing on the upmarket stereo system bought before parenthood sabotaged my lavish lifestyle forever. Eventually, Bob’s lachrymose drone would lull the Little Fellow into slumber.
This photo was only recently rediscovered and Gabriel wants it on his bedroom wall. He has a beautiful girlfriend and drives a car now and will take his A levels next summer. In Sandy Denny’s memorable words, who knows where the time goes?
In more recent news, I learned late yesterday afternoon that both my Colony novel Dark Resurrection and my novella The Going and the Rise are to be recorded and released as audiobooks. It’s quite a compliment where the latter is concerned, because they don’t often do it with stand-alone shorter fiction. That story is still available to download free here for those of you interested.
Location is crucial to my stories because they rely so heavily on atmosphere. To really feel the sense of dread and impeding doom I aim for, you have to feel you’re inhabiting the place I’m describing rather than sitting in a comfy chair cradling your reader device of choice.
My just-published novella The Going and the Rise is set on the Isle of Wight. Like anywhere with a long history in England, the island has its fair share of spectral legends. I first went there at the age of 19 in the summer of ’76 – that idyllic summer that was the hottest and driest for 500 years. I remember seeing the smoke rising from grass and forest fires in the Sussex countryside through the coach windows en route.
That was the summer Elton John and Kiki Dee were never off the radio belting out, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. It was the summer a long-haired Swede named Bjorn Borg won his first Wimbledon title. It was the last family holiday I would ever go on and my 16 year-old brother and I had an absolute blast. I also had an encounter that might have influenced me and my fiction and coloured forever my thinking about the island.
Phil Rickman once asked me as a guest on his radio show had I ever seen a ghost. I answered, truthfully, no. Then he asked me would I like to.
‘No, I bloody wouldn’t,’ I replied, equally truthfully.
So, no phantoms. At least, not yet. But in the summer of ’76 at Ventnor I did meet a woman who claimed to be a witch. She was entirely serious. She was darkly exotic and quite mature (probably late 20’s – but that’s mature enough when you’re 19). I didn’t know whether to believe she was capable of magic, but she certainly believed it and in all respects, she appeared completely sane.
She might have been the spark, or the catalyst. Or I might have used Wight anyway, I love the island and it suits the nature of the story I wanted to tell. But I do wonder…
The Going and the Rise is still available to get for free here. It’s events unfold over a balmy summer, but I hope it’s capable of chilling you a bit despite that. It’s set in Ventnor, and we all know how quickly the weather on the coast can worsen.