What follows is a page from Theodosia’s journal. As soon as this particular entry was written Theodosia ripped it out, screwed it up and discarded it. The reason why is unclear.
I remember an interview I heard on the radio. It was with a man from Sweden who’d wanted to cross the border into Norway when The Spread reached his hometown. But there had been controls in place. Not from the authorities, from panicked Norwegian citizens. The man said that he’d crossed paths with Norwegians who would shoot a potentially infected Swede rather than let them into their country. Maybe Norway was coping better than Sweden because of its smaller population, I don’t know. Anyway, the man (I can’t recall his name) decided to take his family across the North Sea to Britain. Apparently, our island faired a lot better than the countries on the continent. Well, for a time at least. The man was so scared of The Sickness that he left everything in order to take his loved ones to a foreign land where he had no home, no job, no friends, no nothing.
The man was a fisherman by trade and so he had a good boat, but the weather turned rough. He described the waves as though they were sentient, conscious and hell-bent on his family’s destruction. He said that he knew he had to keep his trawler afloat because there would be no help. The coastguard was non-existent in the face of domestic turmoil and, if they capsized, his family would drown. But the scary thing about the interview wasn’t the fury of the elements (I know how destructive storms can be) it was the lack of any safety net. It applies so entirely to our situation. In the old world, if you got into trouble you could phone the emergency services, if you injured yourself you could go to hospital and the NHS would take care of you. You can’t even pay for care now. If you get badly injured or really ill out in The Wasteland you will die. It’s as simple as that.
October 27, 2015Leave a comment
I watch the news more than anything else (bit of a junkie, really) and when a story about books or publishing crops up, out comes the remote, up goes the volume. I love it when the literary world gets a bit of TV coverage, not just because I’m interested in it, but because I know it’s good for the industry.
However, according to a piece I just watched on the BBC News Channel (and other well-informed outlets such as The Bookseller) the UK publishing industry is already in a relatively good state. Yay! Sales of paperbacks and hardbacks are up so and so percent, helped largely by a huge increase in sales of books to young people. Apparently, the physical book market is RECOVERING after the trend of eBooks EATING AWAY at its market share has died down.
No! No! No! No! I hate this poisonous narrative of eBooks vs paperbacks, of eBooks being portrayed as evil and accused of trying to kill the physical book. It’s so completely not true. I ask you to consider: might it just possibly maybe potentially be the case that, with a surge of sales to young people boosting physical book revenue, eBooks are the heroes and not the defeated villains of this tale?
Let me explain. What do young people have? Devices. Kindles, smartphones, tablets; all of these things can download eBook files, often for a fraction of the price of the equivalent paperback. THEY. GET. YOUNG. PEOPLE. READING. And once young people have been bitten by the reading bug, they want to be bitten again (not a Twilight gag). If a young person takes a punt on and enjoys a cheap eBook they found online, they’ll want to talk about it. They’ll want to read everything else by the author, they’ll want to own a physical copy that they can treasure. They’ll go into a book shop to buy the book, either for themselves or maybe as a present for someone else. They see more books in said book shop. They might even buy some of those too. I know this because it happened to me. I’ve never spent more money on paperbacks than I have since I started downloading eBooks. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but I know plenty of other people it’s happened to as well.
Let me get one thing straight. I don’t hate physical books (I don’t hate the BBC either, I used to be a spotty, awkward intern there), I love physical books (and the BBC). But eBooks are not a disease threatening to wipe out the paperback. They are not an evil force intent on closing down all book shops. If anything, they might just have saved the industry.
October 8, 20156 Comments
A diary is an immensely personal thing. People pour their innermost thoughts and emotions into the pages of a diary, often because they think it’s their special, secret place. But have you ever found someone’s diary? The temptation to read is strong, made even stronger by the fact that you’re not supposed to, you’re not allowed to.
With the world transformed in a matter of days, my eponymous heroine, Wye, chooses to record her life in the pages of an old notebook. But, as the author, it was obviously my choice, not hers. And I like to think it was a good one. After all that’s happened to her it’s only natural that Wye would look for some sort of outlet. Having her use a diary as that release gave me scope to tell her story in an incredibly intimate way.
It also allowed me to play with the conventions of diary writing. Wye is having trouble deciphering real from not real, truth from fiction. That meant I could toy with the reader: is reality skewed here? Is Wye trying to trick you?
But a book based solely on that concept would be little more than a gimmick. When it comes down to it, it’s the story that matters, and, more specifically, the character or characters driving that story. To me, Wye is a story of loss, and how loss can affect us. It’s the story of one girl’s journey towards a place she hopes will save her. Even though that journey is through a strange dystopian world, I do hope readers can relate to her plight.
September 3, 2015Leave a comment
What do I do with England once I’ve killed all the humans? That was the (admittedly evil) premise I began work on Wye with. A lot of dystopian books envisage the end of humanity accompanied by a kind of squalor and decay. It makes sense, we humans are a destructive bunch, if it was extreme climate change or nuclear war which saw us off the world would probably be left in a dire state.
But being a contrary sort, I wanted to go completely the opposite way with Wye. Humanity is all but finished and the England that remains is peaceful, beautiful.
‘We call the countryside The Wasteland now. Not because it’s some toxic, uninhabitable slum. Far from it. It’s actually a tapestry of leaf-greens and the pleasant, pastel shades of wildflowers. We call it The Wasteland because every sign of humanity’s dominion over the land is rapidly wasting away.’
The book is told through the diary entries of a girl who calls herself Wye, and I wanted to contrast the horrors of her life with the exquisite scenery of a natural England. Of course, nature taking over means that there are no shops or supermarkets, so scavenging and hunter-gathering takes up a significant part of Wye’s time. Luckily, I grew up in rural England and I soon realised that a lot of my boyhood activities (catching fish, cooking crayfish, collecting watercress etc) would provide someone trying to survive with a means of survival. I could make Wye outdoorsy too!
And more than that, the urge to find food allowed me to explore Wye’s survival instinct, and how that instinct was in direct conflict with all she knew from the civilised ‘old world’. But survival is about more than finding sustenance, it’s about staying alive and evading danger. And that’s where the monster comes in …
September 3, 2015Leave a comment