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The American Girl

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Me making a nuisance of myself back when.

At the moment I’m working on a new novel, The American Girl, the first in a planned trilogy of psychological thrillers with a female lead. So far it’s been a sybaritic experience to immerse myself in the sun-drenched world of a small French town replete with a cast of eccentric local characters, all with their own dark secrets. The novel is part crime fiction, part autobiography drawn from my teenage adventures in the South of France (I came. I saw. I didn’t kill anyone, I swear…)

One feverish summer. One cold corpse.

Quincy Perkins is sixteen when her father sends her to a small French town to get rid of her for the summer. She expects to be bored in La Grève, where her too-cool exchange Noémie does nothing but lounge at the local pool, sunbathing and flirting with boys. But when Noémie’s older brother Raphael arrives, everything changes. A small-town hero with a tragic past, he tells Quincy about his life in Paris, his dreams and regrets.  Suddenly they’re in love…

And then Raphael turns up dead. Quincy was at a drunken party with him before he disappeared. To make matters worse, she has no clear memory of what went on that night. The town turns against her and the American girl becomes everyone’s favourite suspect.

Now Quincy must find out if she has blood on her hands, a journey that will take her to the darkest place of all.

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Cover image for The Monster’s Wife

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The Monster's WifeI’m thrilled to bits with this eye-catching cover for my first novel, The Monster’s Wife, due out in July with Barbican Press.  The artwork by Jason Anscomb of Rawshock Design is wonderfully original and at the same time absolutely in the spirit of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from which my novel draws its inspiration. The Arcimbaldoesque collage of natural objects is both beautiful and grotesque, which really resonates with the novel, described below:

And the Bride was made flesh…

To a tiny island in Orkney, peopled by a devout community of thirty, comes Victor Frankenstein, driven there by a Devil’s bargain: to make a wife for the Creature who is stalking him across Europe.  In this darkly-wrought answer to Frankenstein, we hear the untold tale of the monster’s wife through the perspective of the doctor’s housemaid.  Oona works below stairs with her best friend May, washing the doctor’s linens and keeping the fires lit at the Big House. An orphan whose only legacy is the illness that killed her mother, Oona knows she is doomed.  But she is also thirsty for knowledge, determined to know life fully before it slips away.  As tensions heighten between Victor and the islanders, Oona becomes the doctor’s trusted accomplice, aiding in secret experiments and seeing horrors she sometimes wishes to forget. When May disappears, Oona must face up to growing suspicions about the enigmatic employer to whom she has grown close – but the truth is darker than anything she could imagine.

I’m just making my final touches to the novel and it’s great to feel like the book is so close to being a tangible object!

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Novel Cover Art

image002I’m excited to learn that Jason Anscomb of Rawshock will be designing the jacket cover for my novel.  I think his collage and design work is fab, e.g. this stylish cover (left) for Patrick Süskind’s Perfume.  I’ve had a few ideas cover-wise, mainly involving the long, red hair of the main character, Oona, floating away from her in the underwater scene, quoted here:

The boat dipped low.  The oar rolled against her fingertips, slid further away.  A wave slapped her face.  Wood groaned underneath.  She fell into the water, kicked against the boat, paddling the way Toby did when they were out on the beach.  But she couldn’t move well for the band round her chest.  She scrabbled.  Her breath hurt.  The boat slipped away.  Her head went down.  She bobbed up, mouth full, eyes burning.  The man stepped out of the boat.

She went under.  The water was so blue.  Sunshine, silver-white, above her.  The kind of day when women take their time.  The sun soft as a kiss.  Her chest on ice.  Swallowing salt.  Granny said don’t paddle past your knees – a trow will catch you!  May held her hand, screaming at the waves.

Her chest sings.  The sea is sapphires and silver.  A selkie swims up to her with green weed snarled in her hair.  Under the sea, girls become selkie wives, soft skin roughening to fins and scales.  They can never return to the human world, for their kind don’t know them again.  When the selkie comes close, she smiles and Oona knows everything will be alright, because it’s Ma and her arms are open wide.

I don’t know whether there’s some way of working all that into it (!) Maybe not…

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First Novel due out 2014

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I’m delighted to announce that my first novel, The Monster’s Wife, will be published by Barbican Press in June 2014 as both a paperback and an eBook.  Martin Goodman, editor at Barbican describes the tagline for their fiction as ‘Writing from the Discomfort Zone’ and The Monster’s Wife certainly fits that!

Following in the tradition of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Seaand Valerie Martin’s Mary ReillyThe Monster’s Wife is a literary gothic that re-envisions Mary Shelley’s classic novelFrankenstein from the perspective of the girl Victor Frankenstein transformed into a Bride for his monster.  Oona Scollay is a sixteen-year-old scullery maid living on Hoy, a tiny island in Orkney in 1798.  When her best friend May disappears, Oona starts asking questions, but her search is thwarted by the conflicted loyalties within her close-knit community.  When she turns up shocking evidence, Oona becomes the next victim.  A prisoner in a dark room, living a hellish distortion of life, Oona must find a way to escape before her captor completes his plans for revenge.

I am currently working on a final edit and  the cover art is under discussion.  It all feels very exciting to think of the book emerging into print and I suddenly have a lot of new writing ideas…although I keep reminding myself I have to get this finished off first!

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