Next Big Thing

Next Big Thing

A Measure of Darkness

The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” three writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read.

I was tagged by Jo Reed, author of The Blood Dancers series. Jo, a prolific and talented author, has published three novels and has moved into the murky world of crime fiction with her latest novel, A Puff of Madness.

Malim’s Legacy, the final Blood Dancers book, is now available in paperback.

The authors I have tagged in my turn appear at the bottom of this post.

What is the working title for your book?

A Measure of Darkness, although that’s subject to change. Some writers are brilliant at coming up with titles for their novels. Sadly, I’m not one of those.

My agent and publisher prefer another title so it will be interesting to see which one we choose…

Where did the idea come from for this book?

Many years ago, a friend of mine shared a house with a woman who abducted a baby. Slowly, my friend realised the child he was hearing about on news stories was the same one he was now sharing a house with. He went to the police, the child was reunited with its parents and my friend’s housemate received much-needed psychiatric help.

Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the desperation that would drive someone to steal a child. After having children myself, it was a theme I kept coming back to. What would happen if I lost one of my own children? Could I ever imagine being driven to such an act?

So, I was interested in two things: the different reasons why someone would abduct a child, and the devastating impact such an act has on all those involved.

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, ideally I’d like Javier Bardem in there somewhere but, unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to have a Spanish character. Seriously? I really don’t know. I’m very clear on what each character looks like but that’s my own imagination at work. I hope every reader will create their own picture of the characters.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

They said he’d never find her; they were wrong.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have a wonderful agent, Svetlana Pironko of Author Rights Agency. Thanks to her hard work, my first novel and a sequel will be published by The O’Brien Press under their Brandon Books imprint.

Brandon was always a dream publisher of mine so it was quite remarkable to sign the contract for these two books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

My writing time is limited (two kids and a job don’t leave much free time) but I write quickly. I think the first draft took about five months, more or less. The editing, rewrite, redraft, a quick tweak here and there, some title changes, a few more tweaks has all taken a bit longer. In general, it takes about a year from start to finish.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Such a difficult question. I’ve been told my work is similar to Kate Atkinson’s crime novels – a comparison I obviously favour! Other than that, I’m not sure. In my head, I’m somewhere close to Scottish crime writer Lin Anderson but she may have a very different view on this.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said earlier, the idea of a missing child was inspired by a real-life event. Motherhood and family relations are a recurring theme in the book (hence the title). I suspect my own relationship with my children has probably had the most influence on what I write about.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I like to think the plot is genuinely surprising. I enjoy crime fiction with lots of twists and turns and I hope I’ve achieved that with this novel.

Also, like any good crime novel, location plays a key role in A Measure of Darkness. The novel moves between two locations South East London and the North Kent coast.

Ellen, my central character, lives in SE London because that’s where I lived until recently. With its stunning open spaces, proximity to the Thames and incredible diversity, it was always going to be the location for my crime series. What’s more, it felt right to place Ellen in the heart of the thriving first and second-generation Irish community that forms such a key part of this little pocket of London.

The beautiful, bleak marshlands of the Hoo Peninsula were the perfect setting for other sections of the novel. Close to London, yet utterly different, the peninsula is a world apart from the one Ellen inhabits. The North Kent marshes have long inspired artists and writers, most notably Charles Dickens, who set the opening scenes of Great Expectations here. In my opinion, no one captures the haunting beauty of this place better than the photographer John Whitfield ( with his stunning images of abandoned ships along the Kent and Essex coast.

All Happy Families is published by O’Brien Books, under their Brandon imprint, on 12 August 2013.

Here are the three authors I’m proud to tag:

JW Hicks: wife, mother, grandmother. A longterm story teller transmuted into obsessive novel writer.

Her first short story, Keys and Locks and Open Doors, written in archaic, New England settler-style, spread virus-like over the web after appearing on a now defunct website – her first experience of reader appreciation.

Her latest novel, Goyles, narrated by teenage hero, Matt Starke, tells of an Earth overrun by winged, man-eating monsters. Pitched, they took our world. It’s time to take it back, Goyles tells how Matt, his wolfhound Finn and Traveller girl Jo Lee, find a way to defeat the monsters.

Joe Murphy. Joe was born in 1979 in Co. Wexford, Ireland. He lived there for nineteen years before rupturing his spleen while playing football and dying on the way to hospital. Then he got better.

He was educated in Enniscorthy Vocational College where he excelled at English, winning several awards and being shortlisted for Young Science Fiction Writer of the Year. After completing Secondary School and winning the Bank of Ireland Student of the Year Award, he studied English at University College Dublin where he received 1st Class Hons and a scholarship to complete a Masters in Early Modern Drama. He went on to qualify as a secondary school teacher.

Joe Murphy’s ambitious debut novel 1798: Tomorrow the Barrow We’ll Cross was published in 2011 by Liberties Press (Dublin) to excellent reviews: “epic novel of revolution”, “a swashbuckling tale”, “a cracking good read”, “brilliantly researched and movingly written”, “a gut wrenching and page turning story”…

His second novel, Dead Dogs was published to widespread critical acclaim in Sept 2012. – “Extraordinary” – Sam Millar, New York Journal of Books. “An impressive talent” – Katie Binns The Sunday Times. “A creepy gem” – Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series.

Joe’s day job is teaching. You wouldn’t believe the stories…

Justine Windsor. Justine writes fiction for children and young adults. Her work has been shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House competition, and she has
won the Youwriteon Children’s Book of the year twice. Justine is
represented by Kate Shaw of The Viney Agency.

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