It’s March – wow, already – and that means it’s just a couple of weeks until the UK release of my novel Peach. It’s already been out for a few weeks in the US and of course there have been a number of advance readers in the UK who have had a look at it. (There are some of you in the UK who still found a way to get hold of a copy, too – impressive!)
Having written a number of books, my relationship with them changes from the moment they are released, and I start to read reviews and hear feedback. Ghost-writing biographies, you have two hopes, one that you have captured the voice of the person you’re working with, and two, that people enjoy that style. Writing non-fiction, you have to ensure you are presenting a factual period of time in an interesting way, and that if there is an omission, it’s through choice and not ignorance. Writing fiction, you hope that your story is engaging for the reader and that they will enjoy it and hopefully recommend it.
Peach has been mostly that last category, obviously. It remains an incredible triumph for me every time I am able to have a book published and it isn’t anything I take for granted; I’d always wanted to write a horror story, and the idea for Mablethorpe came to me in a flash, but as I’ve gone on record a few times as saying, Peach was my attempt at writing something that I hoped would have an impact, it was something I had to say.
In that respect waiting for reviews has been a strange experience. I’ve particularly enjoyed people posting mid-read of the book to recommend it and to say how much they are enjoying it. There is something different about reading a review beyond the arbitrary scale of star ratings, and observing how people connected with the story, how they understood what I was saying through these characters and how they took those characters into their hearts.
It wasn’t something that was deliberate, or really a conscious thing, but there were certain elements about the journey that have been omitted when sending review copies out. For example, it hasn’t always been mentioned that Peach is part of a series, and for some readers, I sense that they found the ending slightly underwhelming maybe because of that. I stand by the ending, by the way, as a standalone anyway. It was absolutely the ending which needed to happen for this story, these characters, and Freddie’s personal journey.
I am however delighted to put it out there that Peach is part of a series, and I suppose this is good a time as any for new readers to explain about the title as it will become evident very soon. Peach is so titled because of its relationship with colour psychology.
Here I want to give a nudge for you to read this interview I did a few years ago with Paula Courtney at AbsoluteMusicChat and I’ll just quote what I wrote there – “I was out at dinner reading up the connotations associated with Peach on my phone, and had a Eureka! moment. It fits for the rest of the series as well, and other colours that will serve as titles. Peach is conversational, it’s also associated with introspection on almost an existential level. I thought it was perfect for the story as, like I say, it’s all about those connections and relationships we have.”
I will leave you, my friends and readers, to do some research as to what the following colours mean. But the sequel to Peach is titled ‘Green’ and, actually, is a prequel. The protagonist in this story is Betty, and if you have read Peach, you know who Betty is.
When I wrote Peach, all of the storyline was planned out, and I was set to write it, when my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. He was told it was metastatic. The form of cancer he had meant he would not have long left. I wrote the story while he was still here with us and so while some of the feelings really were brought close to home (like art imitating life), the fact that this was the story I’d planned made it straightforward. As it could be, anyway.
I suffered quite intensely with grief anxiety after he passed away. Worried about looking after my wife, worried about helping her look after her siblings. Worried about even being here.
Some weeks and months I was just existing and nothing sums up the directionless journey of grief better than this (and I apologise to friends and family reading this and only finding out this way, it seems an odd thing to have brought up at any other time); I had an hospital appointment on New Year’s Eve five weeks after my father-in-law died. I’d had an eye problem with what I thought was just a troublesome bump. At this appointment they told me that the results of the biopsy (a word I know, of course, but a word that had not been associated with this particular problem beforehand) were in and that they were pleased to tell me it wasn’t cancerous and I would be fine. Imagine if you will, the bizarre chain of events that have you so detached from what’s going on with yourself that the first time you comprehend that you had a cancer scare was when you were told you didn’t have it. I guess I should have been relieved, it only made me panic more.
It was during this period I wrote Green. Everything was real to me, every word, every emotion, every single thought and expression. It was raw, and for a while after I wrote the first draft, I couldn’t go over it again. Again, I knew how this story was going to end from the start, and I knew Betty would be my favourite character from the first line I wrote. I think the story benefits from it and after maybe as much as 18 months after writing it, I sat down with my wife to read through it (for any budding writers, doing this with any fiction manuscript with a friend or loved one is a really helpful experience for typos and dialogue) again.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy, but I think that’s just because how much more bold Betty is than Freddie was in Peach. She is a very deep-thinker, and they have that in common, but Betty is so much more curious and concerned with her life in a way where Freddie is passive. But, anyway, that’s enough talk about that, as I don’t want to be giving any spoilers away. I will talk more about the process in later posts. Just as Louise is in Peach, Betty is a composite of many strong women I have been fortunate to know and have my life blessed by; she is almost like a love letter to them all, a strong, driven, thoughtful and powerful young woman who asks questions, demands answers and lives life in her own way.
If you have read Peach, and you would like to beta-read Green (you will get a big thank you in my acknowledgements when it is published) please contact me on my website, my Instagram or the Instagram for @Peachthebook. I am keen to know what readers think of Betty.
It seems that every few days there is a new review or new feedback for Peach, I try and keep up with as many as I can on my Instagram or Twitter page, all I can say is that I am genuinely touched and humbled by every connection readers are making with the story. If you have read Peach and you enjoyed it, please consider posting a review. There are many interested eyes reading them, not just mine, though that’s all I can say about that.
Thank you, and once again, a big thank you to Jon and Laurie Wilson at Fish Out Of Water Books for bringing Peach into the world.
PS. The image to this blog is an intersection in Canada called Portage and Main. Read Green to discover its significance!