Monday, July 27, 2015

Back to Whitby.

I’m off to Whitby next week and I can barely wait. I can’t sit still and I feel like screaming loud, giddy noises. I always look forward to my holiday there. I tend to leave a little bit of my heart in Whitby each time I leave. But … this time … I am going back as a published author. My debut novel, Black Eyed Boy, is set there and, soon, I will we walking the same cobbled streets and across the dramatic clifftops as my beloved characters; Emily and Dylan. I just know that I will have a soppy smile on my face for the entire week. I will sigh at the beach huts. I will grin at the whale bones. I will coo at the walk to Saltwick Bay. There’s something even more special about this particular trip.

I have written the sequel (Green Eyed Girl) and it is with my publisher, Crooked Cat, set for publication towards the end of the year. Have my feet touched the ground yet in 2015? Errrm ….. Nope. As this will be my second book, I hope to feel as though I understand the publishing process a little better this time. I will be out taking photographs of book locations for Pinterest boards, quotes, and the all-important book launch. It will, simultaneously, be a fun family holiday and a book research jaunt. And I am counting down the days now, much like a small child desperately awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas.

I have started the third and final instalment of the trilogy, yet I still have a long way to go. I’m aiming to be finished round about the end of the year. I feel slightly more pressure this time. All the ends need to be neatly tied up in a shiny bow. It has to be complete. And it absolutely must be as beautiful as I can make it. Luckily, I will have Whitby for inspiration. Because that’s what Whitby does. It makes me want to write and capture the essence, charm and splendour of the town.
*Whispers* Five … more … days. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Green Eyed Girl

Black Eyed Boy being published was a whirlwind of fun and excitement. It was something that I had always wanted to do. I ticked a gigantic box on my bucket list. But, I always knew that there would be more to come from my characters. So much happened to them within the pages of the first book but the ending was left tantalisingly open for so many more adventures.

I found that having a book about to be released helps to focus the mind. I knew that I wanted to do this all over again. And, thanks to sleepless nights and non-stop typing Saturday writing days, I somehow managed to complete a first draft of the sequel – Green Eyed Girl - before Black Eyed Boy was even released. I submitted it to the publisher and I signed a contract last week. Before the year is out, the sequel will be published. This makes 2015 my most creative and productive year … and we’re still only in July. I have started to write the third and final instalment of this trilogy. I plan to take a little more time with this project as I aim to have all the threads tied up and I want the most beautiful and satisfying ending possible.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The reviews on Amazon for Black Eyed Boy are amazing. Most of them beg for the sequel as soon as possible (this is the biggest compliment!) and it makes me happy to be able to offer that to readers before this year will draw to an end.

As previously, I will be remaining tight-lipped about the storyline. But, I will tell you that the novel begins just over a year after the ending of Black Eyed Boy. Favourite characters (Mrs Bishop, anyone?) will return and there are some new characters joining the story too. If Black Eyed Boy was the emotional read, Green Eyed Girl will be the tense read. Start growing your nails now. And get ready to bite them all off.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. Z is for ... Zest.

It’s the last blog post for the A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. I almost went with zeal. Emily certainly has much enthusiasm in her devotion and pursuit of Dylan. I changed my mind at the last minute, opting for zest instead. I think this theme really shows the impact that Dylan has upon Emily and her life. At the beginning of the book, Emily is bored and disillusioned with pretty much everything around her.

It’s different when you live here; you forget to look at the picturesque views, and fail to remember the simple pleasures of feeling the sand between your toes. It all becomes just: a photograph on a postcard to send elsewhere, meant for those who appreciate it, who have saved their wages to come here for a short time, and then sullenly depart, back to their own lives. I’m always here; Whitby is where I was born and where we still live, and sometimes the pebbles and the candy floss just don’t thrill me. When all of the tourists had settled back into their holiday cottages, I had stayed out alone, wishing that something exciting would happen, but suspecting that it never would.

As you can see, zest, energy and excitement are clearly lacking. I feel sorry for her. She feels like a ghost in her own home as her parents are eternally preoccupied. There isn’t much hope left in her that things will ever change and improve. I think we’ve all felt like that at times. When she isn’t messing about with her best friend, Billy, Emily’s days are monotonous and dull. But, not for long …

We turned the corner and I stopped in my tracks. There was a boy, probably a little older than Billy and me. I’d never seen him before, so took him to be a visiting holidaymaker. He had the blackest hair I’d ever seen. It was long and unkempt, and he had to keep sweeping his fringe out of his face so that he could see properly. He was tanned and toned, and was wearing only a pair of black shorts and some tatty trainers. He was tall and ridiculously handsome. His bare chest and confidence made me lose composure. Suddenly I felt much too hot.
The change in her begins immediately. On seeing Dylan for the first time, she experiences a physical reaction. Little does she know that her life will now never be the same again. Emily has to contend with the biggest and most painful life events during the pages of Black Eyed Boy. She doesn’t understand how she will get through the tragedy and heart-break. But now she has Dylan and he loves her. And even during those bleakest moments, her heart still sings at the pure joy of her first-time romance. Dylan becomes something of a drug to her. She forever needs her next fix.

“Neither have I,” I confessed. “I hadn’t even kissed anyone until you came along.”
“That’s because those lips were made for me,” he said, softly tracing the shape of them with his fingertip, reigniting the fire that had only just been extinguished. We kissed for ages, standing on the edge of the sand. People walked by but I didn’t care. I was too busy falling head over heels in love.
But, unfortunately, when you’re kissing the boy of your dreams, something odd happens to the time. It races ahead without your knowledge or permission, and leaves you mystified as to how an entire day has remarkably elapsed.

I’m obviously not going to reveal the end as you may not have read the book yet. But there is hope. Emily finds her own way to pick herself up, dust herself down and find that all-important zest; the way to finally live her life with a sense of anticipation. Her eyes are open to all the beautiful things that life has to offer. And that puts a silly and soppy smile on my face. Because, it turns out, I am far more of a romantic than I ever knew I was.

 I hope that you have enjoyed the A-Z. There's a link below if you're interested in reading the book:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Black Eyed Boy - What's the Story?

Black Eyed Boy is a contemporary romance novel. Yet so much more. It is written through Emily’s eyes. Emily is a fifteen year-old girl and she lives with her parents in Whitby, North Yorkshire. She is lonely at home; her father is far more interested in drinking and her mother seems eternally cocooned from life, trapped in a bubble of private depression. Emily’s only company is her best friend, Billy. They share a fun and easy companionship, until Billy begins to have amorous feelings towards her.
Early on in the story, it becomes apparent that all is not well at home and Emily soon finds herself having to be strong, brave and older than her years. She worries how she will cope after receiving some heart-breaking news. But, then her whole life is tipped upside down by the arrival of a mysterious and handsome (oh my goodness, so handsome) stranger in town.

The stranger is Dylan; a charming, travelling gypsy boy. He has the darkest eyes and he is incredibly tight-lipped about this. Emily is soon smitten and wishes to spend every waking hour with this gorgeous, cryptic boy that she is falling in love with.

And the feeling is mutual. They quickly embark upon a close and all-consuming relationship. But, tragedy strikes and Emily is soon drowning in grief and sorrow. Her best friend, Billy, can’t stand the fact that she has a boyfriend and the jealousy changes him. He goes from being her sweet, reliable ally to a spiteful and problematic element in her life. All of the rapid changes and traumatic events leave Emily feeling more alone than ever. She wants to turn to Dylan but he will not share his secrets with her; Emily needs to know what is going on but she starts to feel increasingly left out in the cold.

Eventually, Emily discovers the dark truth. And she can’t face it. Her instinct is to run and hide away. But gypsies travel and Dylan is leaving Whitby, with or without her.

Can Emily accept the powerful secret at Dylan’s core? Or is it all too much, is she supposed to be alone?

If you like any of these things, you are in for a treat: romance, love, lust, beautiful boys, strong teenage girls, emotion, secrets, darkness, twists, friendship, relationships, to weep into tissues, hope, endearing old ladies, evocative scenery, the seaside, rooting for the main character, remembering youth, first kisses.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. Y is for ... YA.

I had never written one word, intended for a YA audience, before. And then, BOOM, before I knew it, I had written an entire novel aimed at young people. It came as a bit of a shock as I had never even thought about it. But I am so glad that I did. Writing about teenagers was a joy. They are still optimistic and have the world at their feet. They don’t have mortgage payments and are not stuck in a job they loathe. They are fresh and finding out who they are and what they want. I think they’re a lot more interesting than most adults in that regard.

It was lovely to see first love blossom too. Those kisses that mean everything and leave you feeling dizzy. The way your body lets you know that you might be ready for more. It made me rather nostalgic at times, remembering little snippets and emotions of memories from my own teenage years.

I have finished the sequel to Black Eyed Boy and it is now in the hands of the publisher. The contract has been signed, this week, and Green Eyed Girl will be out at the end of the year. I have started to write the third and final instalment. It will be a sad farewell to Emily and Dylan at the end of all of this. But, I have another book project lined up for afterwards. And it’s more for the YA audience. It will be completely different to Black Eyed Boy. But I already love the main character. I can hear her punchy words and the sarcasm thick in her voice. After that, who knows? But I’m not ready to move on from YA. They are the people I want to write for right now.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. X is for ... Xenophobia.

Okay. So, I was struggling with the letter X. Until I just thought of Xenophobia.

Xenophobe - A person who is fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or people from different countries or cultures.

It made me think of Emily’s dad and how disgustingly rude and prejudiced he is about the fact that his daughter is in a relationship with a gypsy traveller. He knows nothing about Dylan, but the fact that he is a gypsy seems to override the need to find out anything else. It completely and immediately clouds his judgement and he incorrectly assumes so much, based on ludicrous discriminatory and blinkered thoughts and opinions. Gladly, thoughts and opinions that Emily does not share. I felt angry writing a particular scene where Emily’s dad is especially hostile towards Dylan. Credit where it is due, my parents brought me up to believe that we are all equal and people ought to be treated so. They taught me that although we are all different, we are also just the same. People who don’t believe this basic truth leave me bewildered. I will not tolerate any form of narrow-mindedness in my own life. Intolerance, injustice, chauvinism and discrimination are things human beings should have grown out of long ago.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

“He’s one of those dirty gypsies, isn’t he? Disgusting,” Dad said, shaking his head at Dylan, who seemed surprisingly still relatively calm. I don’t know how he could be, because I was ready to explode.
“Says the man whose jumper smells of whisky and whose trousers smell of piss.” The words rushed out through my gritted teeth before my brain could engage and realise what I was doing.
Dad’s hand flew and slapped me, hard, across the face, the force of it making me stumble backwards and bang my head on the flagstones. I was bleeding. Both Dylan and Mrs Bishop rushed to my side.
“Come inside now, Emily,” said Mrs Bishop. “I need to see your head in the light and make sure you’re okay.” Her hands were trembling.
Dylan’s eyes had never been darker, and his face was set in a vaguely controlled frown. I sat up and grasped his hand. I felt a bit woozy and so I hung on to his side.
“You’re not seeing this dirty little bastard again, Emily, so you had better say goodbye.” Dad spat the words out, and the hatred in his eyes was frighteningly real.
“Dad, I’m nearly sixteen, don’t be stupid,” I begged him.
“You’d better not have touched her,” my dad said. His eyes were wild and menacing.
“He hasn’t,” I shouted. “Stop it.”
“Don’t even look at her,” my dad yelled at Dylan.
“But I love her,” he said.
I was shocked, silenced and I looked up to see if he meant it. As awful as this situation was, there was still the time for my heart to sing and rejoice at those most perfect words.
“Love her?” my dad laughed, cruelly, riling Dylan who was struggling to maintain his composure. “This isn’t love! You’re just a filthy pikey, lad, out to fill your boots. Well, it’s over, you won’t be seeing Emily again.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. W is for ... Whitby.

I wrote a blog post about why I chose Whitby as the setting for my book, back in November last year. 

You can read it here:

Unless you have been in a coma or floating around in outer space, you may well know just how much I love Whitby. I love everything about it and it seemed natural to set my novel there. I think it made it even more fun to write as I mentally walked around the old, cobbled streets and climbed the steps (without the aching legs: bonus.)

In just over three weeks, I will be back there and I can hardly wait. I feel an increased excitement about my visit this year; it will be the first time in Whitby as a published author with a book out that is set in that very place. It will be useful too, as I am still writing the trilogy. I signed a contract with my publisher, Crooked Cat, yesterday and the sequel will be out later in the year. It continues to be an exciting time and a thrilling journey.

I long to do a Black Eyed Boy Whitby tour (purely for myself). I am looking forward to standing at the place where they met, shared their first kiss and fell in love. I will think of Emily and Dylan a lot during that week. I can envisage certain scenes of the book running through my head as I see a particular view, landmark or street sign. And it will make me very happy. Also, I hope it will give me a kick up the arse to get writing more of the third and final instalment. Though I don't look forward to saying goodbye to my beloved characters. Not at all.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. V is for ... Virginity.

Virginity. It’s an integral part of the Black Eyed Boy story. Emily turns sixteen during the pages of the book and she happens to have the super-hot boyfriend of her dreams. She is filled with lust for Dylan; each kiss makes her want more and more. But she’s scared, and weren’t we all? Losing your virginity is a massive moment in your life. You can’t take it back; when it’s gone, it’s gone. And then there’s all the worries of contraception and what it will actually feel like. It certainly took me back to my teenage years as I wrote about this theme. You don’t ever forget that initial experience. I’m still trying not to give too much away, in case you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s safe to say that virginity signifies and represents so much more for Emily and Dylan than it would for you or I.

I never expected my first novel to be aimed at a YA audience, but I can see myself writing a lot more for this age group as I enjoyed going back in time. I can recall all of the adolescent angst vividly, so it is easy to summon up emotions and memories. It can be a fine line though. I absolutely didn’t want to patronise potential young readers by sugar-coating storylines. Emily deals with some deep and weighty issues. I didn’t hold back on that score. But that’s life; reality, and there’s no point pretending otherwise. Young readers can handle far more than they are often given credit for, I feel. I wanted real characters; not cardboard cut-outs. If a character felt the need to say ‘fuck’, then that’s what they did. At the same time as trying to create something identifiable, I also felt an innate social responsibility to do the right thing. I didn’t want Emily throwing away her virginity without a second thought. I have daughters. One day, they will be the same age as Emily and I would want them to really consider their feelings and choose the right time.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

I turned around to face him then, and I knew that the fact that I wanted him would be etched into my face. I didn’t wait for him to embrace me, I took the lead and put my arms around him and I kissed him as if this was my last chance to do so. I kissed him as if nothing else mattered, like I had seen so many times whilst watching a film. I remembered that I had always been dubious about those big romantic kissing scenes, and aghast if either of my parents were ever in the room. I didn’t imagine that kissing someone was like that.
But it was – and even better. If I could wake up in the morning and kiss him until the stars came out, I would. I was starting to become aware that my body wanted more, and that terrified me. I wanted to touch him and I wanted him to touch me, but inexperience, and fear of the unknown, kept my hands where they were – at least for now.
That’s when I pulled away, as I could feel that his body was craving the same. And I didn’t really know what to do about that.
“Wow,” he sighed.
“Sorry,” he said, glancing down at his jeans.
“Don’t be sorry.”
“You drive me crazy, Emily.”
“Good,” I said, kissing him on the cheek. I felt over the moon to think that he was finding it as difficult as I was.
We sat on the sand. The tide was coming in quite quickly, so I knew that we would have to move on, but it was lovely to just sit there and watch the sporadic boats riding over the waves.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. U is for ... "Unputdownable"

U is for “Unputdownable”. That was the title of my first ever Amazon review and I couldn’t believe my luck. It was also a five-star review and I had a little cry as it made me so very happy. Nineteen more people have added an Amazon review of Black Eyed Boy since and each one has been amazing. I can’t thank those people enough. Not many people tend to leave a book review so it really is thrilling when you happen to get one, especially if it’s good!
Here’s what the reviewers have had to say:

I started reading this at 11am on the day of release, and I finished it at 4pm! I was asked whether it was because I know the author, I started reading it for that reason, I finished it within 5 hours because it's well written, flows well, easy to read and I was desperate to find out what happened next. Will we find out what kind of life Dylan and Emily have, Laura? I sincerely hope so.

Wow. I downloaded this book this morning and haven't been able to stop reading it! I literally had to keep going until I was finished. Extremely well written and unlike other things I have read. Not your usual helpless girl meets boy- twists, turns, passion and emotion. Everything is in there in perfect quantities. I cannot wait for a second instalment. In the meantime I'm going back to read it again!

I read the whole book in one sitting. It's beautifully written, heartbreakingly sad, but hopeful and romantic at the same time. An exploration of relationships, grief, and first love, with a supernatural twist. O, and a super hot hero, which never hurts ;-). Congratulations Laura, looking forward to the next instalment(s)!

Unputdownable indeed! Downloaded this morning, and devoured promptly. Now waiting impatiently for the second instalment...

I bought this book because I know the author- Laura runs my writing group and as I'm familiar with her writing style I knew this would be a good read. I was less sure about whether the plot would appeal to me as although I knew it was a romance, Laura does love her dark twists and turns. However, although Black Eyed Boy has a distinct gothic air and a feel of foreboding, the romantic in me was pleasantly surprised by just how driven by love the plot actually was.

It's a coming of age tale of that all consuming first love, and reading Emily's feelings towards Dylan took my right back to being a teen again. However, this book definitely has a crossover appeal and isn't just for the young adult audience-it's fresh and original.

Emily is fifteen and when she spots traveller Dylan she (along with all the other girls in town) is under his spell. He's different and mysterious and before long Emily is choosing to spend time with Dylan rather than with her oldest friend Billy or even her terminally ill mother. She is completely smitten with Dylan and nothing else seems significant. Except for the raven who sits on her window ledge each evening...

Beautiful historic Whitby makes a dramatic backdrop for this love story with a difference and the exquisite descriptions of the town transported me straight to one of my favourite UK destinations. In fact, I'd go as far as to say the seaside setting is as much a 'character' as typical teen Emily and gypsy Dylan.

The difficult theme of bereavement is tackled bravely and with an honest sensitivity. I ran the full gauntlet of emotions reading Black Eyed Boy- it had a bit of everything, and a true Yorkshire flavour to boot.

A final note must be reserved for Emily's caring and insightful neighbour Mrs Bishop. I loved her so much! What a wonderful, warm periphery character and a reminder to all readers and writers of the importance of a varied cast to add depth to a novel.

I'm so happy there's going to be more from these characters as a sequel is in the pipeline- please don't let it be too long a wait!

I was drawn to this book because the setting of Whitby is where I spent the first 46 years of my life. I'm so glad I read it. The author captured the essence of this wonderful seaside town perfectly. I could smell the fish & chips, hear the squawking of the seagulls and picture the view mentioned in the book, with ease. But the character development impressed me the most. I felt sorry for every single character without exception at different times in the story. Most of all, fifteen-year-old Emily, whose life is falling apart around her. Handsome Dylan enters her life when she most needs the distraction, but it soon becomes more than that. Emily faces some tough choices as the story unfolds, and the author has done a superb job of creating a world many of us can relate to, yet at the same time adding layers of mystery and intrigue which had me enthralled. I wish Laura success with the novel and I'm looking forward to reading her next book. Well done!

I have enjoyed this book immensely, being in what can only be described as a Black Eyed Boy bubble for the last few hours. The highlight for me was the quality of the beautiful descriptions the author so effortlessly left on every page.

Bought it, read it, loved it, all in one day! A great story, beautifully written, I can't wait for the next one. I'm now off to find more of Laura's work and book a long weekend in Whitby...

Here we meet Emily and her turbulent family, Billy her best friend and the boy, Dylan. There is also a wonderful array of background characters, my personal fav, being Mrs Bishop. The book is set in the seaside town of Whitby, in which Emily lives, it creates the perfect atmosphere and feeling of the town, so much so that i can almost taste the fish and chips! i won't put in any spoilers, but this book in essence is a girl meets boy, with a supernatural twist. It's wonderfully written, beautifully crafted and I'm itching for book 2, I urge everyone to buy it!

A fabulous debut novel from Laura Huntley which centres around 15 year old Emily and the mysterious Dylan. Through Emily, we explore lust, first love, grief, passion, betrayal and loyalty as Emily has to deal with life changing and challenging events that are heaped upon her. With strong characterisation, you end up pitying even the most undeserving characters at some point and shedding tears for others.

A well written novel which is an easy to read page turner, dripping with description, and with a super-natural twist.

I started reading this boook as I know the author, but finished it wanting more about Emily and Dylan. It has it all, from first love to death and sadness to betrayal. If I didn't know better, I would truly think that Laura actually lived in Whitby as her writing is so descriptive, she takes you there! Many congratulations on a brilliant debut, Laura. My only disappointments were that I couldn't read it in one sitting due to other commitments, and that we will have to wait for the sequel!!

WOW what an amazing gift you have bestowed on us in this wonderful book....Love, hurt, sadness, joy and loss... I can't wait to find out what happens in the next chapter of Emily and her Black-Eyed-Boy's life.
I want more.... I NEED more..... brilliant book by a brilliant author. Well done Laura, I'm truly happy that you shared this with us all.
Thank you xx

I downloaded this after a recommendation from a friend. Once I started the book I couldn't stop. It was very well written and kept you wanting to know more. I do hope there will be a second book. I would like to know how things turn out for Dylan and Emily.

Excellent young adult fantasy book, short enough for me to read in one sitting, so would be excellent for teenagers with a short attention span :) Lovely characterisations, I enjoyed it very much. Recommended.

What began as a seemingly normal tale of family and young flirtation, soon hinted that other things were at play. Cleverly woven suggestion, keeping the truth almost to the end, made this a fantastic read.

Loved it! Parts were very close to home for me but very well written and true. Heartbreak, Happiness, Lust, Love it's all there and keeps you wanting more........ Now I just wish the boy was mine!

I got lost in Whitby and Emily's life experiences. This book reminded me of how exciting it is to fall in love. A well tested theme that is so different at the same time. A unique secret.

Absolutely loved this book. So well written and I struggled to put it down. Started it yesterday and finished it this morning and i can't wait to read the next one. Well done Laura. :)

I loved this book! Couldn't put it down! Can't wait for the next one! Fantastic read! Hurry with book two!

Brilliant read.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. T is for ... Travellers.

Dylan is a traveller. With the others, he rides around the country in a caravan. Sometimes they will stay in a location for a matter of days, sometimes for a few weeks. Before long, though, they long to see a different view and off they travel to somewhere new.

Emily thinks that Dylan’s life must be so romantic and she yearns for the same freedom that he appears to have. She’d fed up with her life and she has stopped seeing the charm and beauty of her home town. Dylan, however, reminds her of how much she has right under her nose. He is a huge fan of Whitby and he considers her to be extremely lucky that she gets to wake up in the same picturesque coastal town each morning. He also points out that his travelling lifestyle can make it difficult to make and maintain friendships.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

 “I envy you,” I sighed, thinking about my forthcoming exams and envying him his freedom to travel, to see different places. It sounded like a dreamy adventure.
“I might settle one day, you never know,” he said, thoughtfully.
“Have you been to many places?” I asked him.
“All around the country, bits of Europe. Whitby’s nice, I like it here.”
“I’m so used to it that I don’t always see it anymore,” I admitted.
“Then open your eyes. Perhaps you should show me around and indulge the tourist in me?” he said, with that gradual and exquisite smile, a smile that could have asked for anything and would have got it.
“Maybe,” I said coolly, adding a faux blasé shrug, even though my heart was beating wildly at the prospect.
“Oh come on, when was the last time that you took a boat ride or went around the abbey?”

I couldn’t actually remember, it must have been when I was a small child.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. S is for ... Sixteen.

Turning sixteen was an important landmark to me at the time. I’d made a chart and I had been ticking off the days, even when there were hundreds still to go. I thought that when I turned sixteen, I’d have more control over my life. I could leave home. Though, none of that happened in a way that I could have quite predicted. There was absolutely nothing sweet about my sixteenth but it did signify changes. It was the age of consent. And sex and boys were never too far away in my thoughts.
And I had to dismiss the vast majority of this to write Black Eyed Boy. Emily, the main character, couldn’t care less about her birthday. She has far too much to contend with for her sixteenth birthday to mean very much at all. Though, suddenly, sex and a very specific boy are beginning to creep into her thoughts too.

The day before her birthday is the worst day of her life as her mother passes away. Sixteen means pain and a grief so deep and cutting that she can barely breathe. I still cry when I read that scene and I am sure that I am not alone. The timing of her mother’s death and Emily’s coming of age collide. She can’t stand to be there; within the walls of the house where her mum just died. She wants to be with Dylan. And once she’s with him, she doesn’t want to let him go. Being held in Dylan’s arms is Emily’s safest place; the one place that she doesn’t feel so terrifyingly alone.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

I stepped out from the caravan and I just stopped dead in my tracks. There were dozens of balloons on strings tied to the trees. Someone had decorated the caravan with “Happy Birthday” signs, everyone was there toasting marshmallows, and there were so many smiles for me that I worried that I might burst with an overwhelming appreciation for every single one of them.
Nobody had made a fuss about me like this before. Baby Matthew’s birthday had always knocked Mum for six, and she had never recovered in time for mine. That hadn’t been a problem; I understood that the anguish she had felt drained her, but it just made this so much more endearing. These people who barely knew me had gone to all this trouble.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Siobhan smiled. “We weren’t sure that you would want to celebrate, but sixteen is an important one and we thought we should mark it. And, Nancy really loves birthdays, so you didn’t really have a choice.” Siobhan grinned.
That made me laugh. Nancy couldn’t keep still, and her excitement was more than evident.
“Can I give her my present now?” she asked, not waiting for an answer as she flung herself forward. She proudly handed me a piece of paper. I read her sweet childish writing which said, Happy Birthday Emily. I love you. From Nancy. I kissed the top of her head. Her fluffy ringlets tickled my nose.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. R is for ... Research.

Research. I actually really enjoy this bit. I have a plan. I know my characters. I just need more facts (to try and sound convincing and vaguely knowledgeable). Of course, sometimes I gloss over some of it if it doesn’t quite help with my storyline. Ah, artistic license. But, reading up on what you’re writing about obviously helps, and you gain some new information along the way.

It’s amazing what you find yourself Googling sometimes (if any other authors are reading this, they will be nodding in agreement I’m sure.) As handy and instant as Google is though, it isn’t my favourite way to research material. I’m a bookworm. I adore them. The covers; hardback and paperback, the feel of the pages and an excuse to use pretty bookmarks (mostly handmade for me by my creative and helpful seven year-old daughter, thank you).

I enjoy buying books because I can’t quite help it. I also enjoy visiting the library too and I have spent ages going from bookcase to bookcase, searching through their collections. I did this a lot when I was about to begin writing Black Eyed Boy. I thought that I had this fabulous idea for a book, but I also felt too scared to simply sit down and write it for a while. I needed knowledge. Knowledge brought confidence, and then I was able to tentatively start scribbling the story. After that, I couldn’t stop. It was a wonderful first experience of writing a novel.

The vast majority of my research for this book was related to the setting and nearby areas (Whitby) and the local nature and wildlife. I have ended up with a lovely array of books on my shelf that I still look at every week. But, before I knew it, I was delving into historical horror works, learning about myths and legends and custodial family law! Being a writer is rarely dull, I find. You’re always part of another world and another life and each completed book leaves you more  well-informed than you were before.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. Q is for ... Qualifications.

We meet Emily as she preparing for her GCSE examinations. But everything goes wrong. She finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate as tragedy rears its head at home and she is utterly distracted by the arrival of handsome and mysterious Dylan, particularly as their relationship blossoms. Her education and looming potential qualifications begin to fade into irrelevance for her and I can understand that. Knowing what she must endure, within the pages of the book, I admire her for even trying.

But trying is what her mum wants. And it becomes something of a last wish; a wish that Emily takes seriously and vows to stick to, no matter what else is thrown her way. She displays great strength here, I think, and she soon starts to demonstrate that she is becoming wiser than her years. Despite further grief and horrors lurking around the corner, Emily takes every single exam. And I applaud her.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

“I’m okay. I’m sorry you missed school. You should be there. I want you to do well in your exams, Emily,” she said, quite sternly.
“We’re leaving next week anyway” I said.  “I can still revise here.”
The last thing that I wanted was for her to feel guilty; I wouldn’t be able to take that. It wasn’t her fault that this despicable disease had found her. And, like Mrs Bishop said, it couldn’t be helped.
“The doctor said that I would probably want to sleep a lot. God knows I’m tired. I don’t want you watching over me like a hawk, you have your own life to lead, and I know that. And if you put the work in now, you’ll have a better life in years to come. You’re a clever girl, Emily. You don’t need to look after me, and there’s nothing that you can do anyway. Do you hear me?”
I felt exceptionally hurt by that. I knew that it was a “cruel to be kind” speech, but did she honestly expect me to pretend that she wasn’t terminally ill? If I didn’t look after her, who the hell would? Dad? What was he going to do, except get drunker as the weeks rolled on? I was annoyed, but I didn’t want an argument. She’d only just got home.