Oh, this is a good one. I hope it’s worth the wait, what with this blog post being late. But I have a good excuse — I published a book! Go check it out here; there’s buy links! And you can read the first chapter.
So, how did A Little Death come to be? It started way back in the 90s when I was a teenager obsessed with vampires. I wrote Twilight before Twilight was a thing. The doesn’t-know-she’s-pretty teen who somehow manages to be chased by every boy she meets, the brooding stranger with a family of vampires, the parents who were, to all intents and purposes, absent. Even the end where the bad guy lures her some place on the pretext of “Sacrifice yourself to me or I’ll kill your family, ha ha, I’m gonna kill them anyway once you’re gone.”
And of course the heroine (who was called Ruby Northam at that time because ha ha, Ruby red, like Scarlett, and I had the horn for Jeremy Northam) ended up being turned into a vampire herself at the end of the book, which I, in my teenage hubris, planned to use as a set-up for the sequel, which I never got around to writing…at least, at that time. The book was called Come to Me, after the Bjork song of the same name, from his debut album called…uh, well…Debut, which I listened to over and over again on cassette tape around that time of my life, which shows you how long ago it was.
Even though it was a while back, I still remember writing the whole thing longhand, in a different colour ink each day so I could see at a glance how much I wrote in each writing session. Computers existed back in the day, but people didn’t have them at home. They were strictly schools-and-colleges only. A4, narrow-ruled refill pads from Asda, kept in a ring binder. As the manuscript got bigger and bigger, I moved it over to a lever-arch file. It ended up being around 420 pages in the end if I remember correctly. Funny the details that stick. I started writing it on the first of October 1994, and finished it on the last day of March 1995. Exactly six months.
And here’s the thing — my target, not always met, was 10 pages a day. But for the first fortnight I stuck to that, and at a rough estimate of 8 words per line, and 45 lines per page, that means in two weeks I wrote over 50,000 words.
That’s a whole NaNoWriMo in a fortnight. Longhand.
No, I didn’t have a social life. I’d just been dumped by my first boyfriend and prioritised my writing over finding another one. (Please leave your “Yas Queen!” to the end of this blog post.)
Trouble is…it was shit. Unadulterated shit. Definitely not good enough for publication, but, I’d written a book. And even though received wisdom in publishing dictates that the first book you write is dreck, this story wouldn’t let me go.
Years later when I was published, I no longer had a copy of Come to Me; I hadn’t kept it and transcribed it onto a computer once I owned one, but I remembered the basic story. But it was missing something. Talent. A story. 3D characters. Realistic dialogue. A merciless edit.
Okay, several somethings.
But once I’d become an erotic romance author, I realised that what CTM missed was a sexual element. Not that I was a virgin when I wrote the book at first, but I didn’t have much experience, let’s say. And not just of sex — of life. I was much better equipped to write the book in my thirties. Or rewrite the book, I should say.
How could a book about feuding vampires be anything but sexy? I mean, the whole vampire mythology itself…penetration of a quivering young woman with extendable penisfangs, come on.
I aged up the heroine to university rather than high school and dropped several background characters. And Cian Ambrose remained the bad guy; he just needed a good guy to balance him out. Enter Jonathan Cutler.
(I will confess I named him Cutler because it sounds like cutlery, and Twilight is set in the town of Forks. While redrafting, I even had Jonathan make a scornful joke that “Vampires don’t sparkle, Mallory,” but I can’t for the life of me remember if I left that in or snuck it past the editors.
Mallory being Ruby Northam’s new name in this version. Surname Sharpe, because that’s what vampires’ fangs are.
I changed the title of the book too, because hurr hurr…A Little Death, or le petit mort, is French for orgasm, and it was now a dirty book. If you’re interested in the soundtrack, I was heavily into 30 Seconds to Mars at the time, even thanking them in the dedication for the first published edition. I listened to their albums, 30 Seconds to Mars and A Beautiful Lie over and over. Not while actually writing, as I can only write in silence, or as near to silence as I can get, but while preparing to write, or while away from my computer, on an mp3 player, to maintain the creative mood. My publisher even gave me a telling off for styling the band name as 30STM at one point; never mind that’s how it’s commonly spelled; how dare a rock band’s name not fall in with Loose Id’s house style?
I subbed ALD to a couple of publishers and it was eventually bought by Loose Id first time around and maybe some would say this isn’t professional of me, but they’re out of business now so fuck ‘em. But during the time I was feuding with them over lack of payments (and I’d already signed the contract for A Little Death and put it through edits, so couldn’t do a damn thing about withdrawing the book) a staff member ‘accidentally on purpose’ forwarded me some emails in which the bosses of Loose Id, commonly known as the ‘Big 4’, discussed how difficult I was being.
As in…expecting to be paid for my work.
Anyhoo, the CEO of the publishing house didn’t even ‘get’ the title of the book. “Why A Little Death anyway? It’s not like it’s a murder mystery.” And she had to be told by someone else what it meant in French.
So. I signed the contract, put ALD through edits, and by then Loose Id were consistently ‘forgetting’ to pay me, so I knew by the time the book was even out in ebook format that I would never ever send them another book. I emailed my editor to say I was putting them on notice that I wanted my rights back to both novels — By the Book and A Little Death — at the first legal opportunity.
And that put paid to A Little Death ever being released publicly in paperback. At one point, the ‘Big 4’ even denied they had ever promised me a paperback release, and it had never been formatted for such.
Which was strange, as my insider contact sent me some copies that had been sitting in a warehouse, but which were withheld from sale to punish me. I actually had copies of my book, in paperback, sitting on my desk, while Loose Id staff emailed me to deny they had ever put the novel to print.
However, a paperback release would automatically extend my contract, so not releasing A Little Death in print meant I got my rights back sooner than I expected. I then subbed the book to Total-e-Bound, later known as Totally Bound. They in turn refused to market A Little Death and its sequel, Bring Me to Life, as a series because, and I quote, “Readers don’t cross over from M/F to M/M.”
I said, “Well I’m a reader and I do.” But nothing doing. Totally Bound put two books from the same universe, into different imprints.
Upshot is, both books are mine again now, and I can market them as a series entitled — what else? — Life & Death. I’m really proud of my world-building in these books and if I ever write a third book in the series (and I’ve had requests for this) it’ll have to have something death-related in the title, to keep the alternating pattern going. Life and death, life and death.
And you can bet your arse I’ll be after Bianca Sommerland for another one of her gorgeous branded covers when it happens!
* * * * *
Seeing dead people is all very well…unless one of them wants to kill you.
To Mallory Sharpe, vampires are a fact of life. They exist, walk the streets and for the most part mind their own business. As a second-year university student, she doesn’t pay the undead much attention until she meets Jonathan Cutler. He has needs, and blood is only one. The other, Mallory is more than willing to help him with. After all, he has but one rule, to never spend more than one night with a woman. He won’t get attached, or consciously put anyone’s life in danger.
Another vampire, Cian Ambrose, isn’t so troubled by conscience. Mallory’s fair game, a weapon with which to taunt Jonathan. In fact, it might be fun to make her his grail, or living blood donor, and Cian Ambrose doesn’t take kindly to the word no. He hasn’t heard it often in his one hundred and fifty years and it usually results in the other person ending up dead.
So with Mallory’s tolerance for undead guys running very low, Jonathan has to regain her trust, stop Cian killing her, oh…and for God’s sake, not fall in love.
* * * * *
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