It’s just over a week until the launch of Stormwalker, and I’m so excited about it flying out into the world. A year ago now, when Stonebird was published, I got to experience something that not many people in the world can say they have. I had an actual book in actual shops, a book people were talking about, a book people were liking. It was an amazing feeling, something unlike anything I’ve experienced before: a cocktail of joy, magic, excitement and disbelief, shaken up with a dose of surreal.
Over the course of this year, that feeling has never disappeared. Every time someone tweets about the book, every time I get an email saying someone has enjoyed it or been moved by it, every time I get to go to a school and talk to kids about the power of stories, I have to pinch myself. When you’re young, you have a plan: you want to be a footballer or an astronaut or a racing driver; you want to make computer games or become an engineer or a dancer. Me? I wanted to be a wrestler. Then I wanted to be an NFL player. It was only when I was about thirteen, having finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that I knew I had to be an author.
Since then, that was the goal, the driving force behind every academic or professional decision I made. I scribbled stories on lunch breaks and bus journeys and sent books out into the world, trying to get published. And now I’m going to have a second book in shops, just over one year on from Stonebird.
So what is it about, this mysterious second novel? Well, to tell you a bit more about it, here is the blurb:
Owen Smith is worried about his dad.
It’s been a year since they lost Owen’s mum, and though Owen’s still hurting, his dad is hurting more. Owen can see it etched on his face. He has to find a way to help him.
Something crazy happens. Owen wakes up in a terrifying world, where a raging storm called the Darkness threatens to obliterate everyone and everything in its path.
Owen doesn’t know why he’s here.
He doesn’t know if he’ll ever see his dad again.
All owen knows is that he is a Stormwalker, and he must fight back…
Stormwalker is very different to Stonebird. It’s not as influenced by real life, it didn’t demand to be written in quite the same way, but it did grow in the same fashion. Stonebird was born from a collision of ideas in my notebook. I’m always writing in it, scribbling overheard phrases, snatches of ideas, the vague memories of dreams. Often, they don’t make any sense. They’re rarely fully formed ideas. But every now and then, one or two fragments bump into each other. With Stonebird, I knew I wanted to write about gargoyles. But I also knew I wanted to write about dementia and the importance of memories. They were separate ideas for months, then one day it suddenly clicked: what if gargoyles could protect more than just buildings? What if they could protect people too?
The origins of Stormwalker are also rooted in two ideas joining together. The first idea was inspired by a Doctor Who episode, the Rings of Akhaten, where Matt Smith defeated a god by using his memories. It was one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever seen in the show; spellbinding and awe inspiring. I thought maybe there was something to be said for an enemy that feeds on memories, or, if not memories, then fears.
Another concept I was inspired by was the movie Inception, where we see dreams within dreams, each of which impacts real life. What if I could somehow incorporate the idea of a world within a world with the notion of a Doctor Who-style fear feasting enemy?
So the main concept for Stormwalker was born. But I needed more – I wanted all this to somehow be integral to a real world story, and the real lives of the characters in it. I’ve always enjoyed stories that mix magic with real life elements. They tend to ground the magic in reality, somehow making it more believable, but at the same time heightening the sense of wonder. I thought about how I could achieve this, then decided that my world-within-a-world would be fiction: that my protagonist, Owen, would find himself waking up in a fictional world, jumping right out of real life and into the pages of a story.
Once I had this down, I couldn’t wait to get going. What was this world? How did Owen leap into it? Why did he leap into it? All these things needed to be figured out, and I’ve always been the kind of person who figures things out by writing. I find that the muse often visits with an idea or two when you’re sitting at your desk, or wherever it is you like to write, typing away. So I wrote, and I figured things out, and Stormwalker developed from a tiny piece of an idea to an actual book.
It’s not long now until you can read it. I’m so excited about it being out in the wild – and if you pick it up, I really hope you all enjoy it.