Last week I wrote about something exciting – I’ve been offered a publishing contract for my first novel by a publisher called Unbound.
They’re a bit different to your traditional publisher, in that they crowdfund all of their books. That means that each author runs a campaign to raise the money needed to get the novel ready to publish. Crowdfunding allows the publisher to diversify their catalogue because they’re assuming less risk when taking on new authors, as each crowdfunding campaign brings a ready-made audience for the book.
I’m working on my campaign at the moment and it’s been fun, nerve-wracking and challenging so far.
If you’d like to support the book, you can do so here.
But what is the book about?
My novel is called The Disappeared and it’s speculative fiction, or dystopian if you prefer. Think Margaret Atwood or George Orwell.
It’s set in an alternative version of the UK run by a military dictator, who came to power after a series of terrorist attacks and political upheaval threatened to destroy the country.
The story follows a woman called Clara, whose father was taken by the Authorisation Bureau when she was 11-years-old, for the crime of teaching banned books to his students.
Clara grows up to become a teacher and wants to rebel against the regime that has cost her family so much. But the only weapons she has are the books her father left behind. So she decides to teach them to her students, encouraging her boyfriend to join her.
When one of their students disappears, they are terrified that the Authorisation Bureau will be coming for them too.
Why did I write it?
I first had the idea for The Disappeared over a decade ago, while watching a film about the Dirty War in Argentina. I wanted to write something that would make a situation like this more immediate, so I chose to set it in the UK in the near future.
Although there are many dictatorships around the world and we understand the impact they have on the people living within them, they can feel distant from us. Either they’re far away, or they exist in history, so they don’t affect our day-to-day lives.
I wanted to ask: what if they did?
Want to know more?
When I started writing The Disappeared, the story was told entirely from Clara’s perspective, in the first person. That made it difficult to tell the story I wanted, as Clara wasn’t present for much of the action. For example, we never got to see what happened to her father, because she didn’t.
After receiving some feedback that the book was a bit too clearly defined as good vs. evil, with the characters fitting neatly into that archetype, I decided to rewrite a chunk of the book from the perspective of the antagonist. That is Clara’s stepfather, the Major, the man who was responsible for the arrest of her father.
His sections are actually some of my favourite. Where Clara drives the action in terms of rebelling against the regime, the Major is a part of it. But he isn’t the bad guy in his own mind.
It’s the classic piece of writing advice: the antagonist is the hero in his own story.
The Major’s story focuses on his relationship with Clara’s mother, who he becomes obsessed with while tracking her husband. He wants to win her over, to possess her completely, even if he has to destroy her husband to do that.
But over the years, they break against each other, becoming increasingly unhappy as neither gets what they want.
This relationship provides the backdrop to Clara’s life and influences some of the decisions she makes in other parts of the story, but it also allows me to explore the regime and the mind-set of someone who does awful things, but believes in the necessity of them entirely.
As part of the crowdfunding campaign for the novel, I made a video of me discussing the story and the reasons I wrote it, which you can watch below.
If you are interested in finding out more, you can read the first chapter of The Disappeared on my Unbound page, where you can also pledge to the campaign by buying a copy of the book. And if you know someone who might be interested, please do share it with them!