About The Book
How well do you know your girlfriend?
How well do you know your lover?
How well do you know yourself?
Daniel and Victoria are together. They’re trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner.
But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral – but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires.
And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose – and who to trust.
How my home town inspired my debut novel.
I come from a forgotten place. A left-behind place. A place of brief seasonal highs and much longer inter-seasonal depressions. I come from The Fylde.
The Fylde is a cluster of coastal towns and communities in the north-west of England. Blackpool, with its rusting half-size Eiffel Tower, shockingly high heroin overdose and violent crime rates, and some of the poorest wards in the country, is its de-facto capital.
The fictional setting for This Little Dark Place, ‘Wilder-on-Sea’, is a Frankenstein’d and exaggerated (but not much) composite of the towns, woods and streets of my Fylde-hood. The people in Wilder are known as ‘Wild’uns’. They’re tough. The epithet is “…a grim badge of honour…a symbol of endurance” and I think a lot of people from the Fylde – and other similarly forsaken places – will relate to this.
Don’t get me wrong, being a Fylde childwas fun. Rollercoasters, donkey rides, fried sugar-dipped doughnuts. What’s not to like? But as I approached my teenage years I started feeling isolated.
Looking at a map of the UK really drove it home. We were miles from anything, from the nearest big city (Manchester), from London, from Europe. Hemmed by the Irish Sea to the west and the M6 to the east, I felt like I was living on an island within an island, in quarantine.
Through the setting – particularly at ‘Lanes End’, the secluded cottage where much of the novel unfolds – I have tried to create a sense of isolation, of claustrophobia. It’s as much about atmosphere as it is the place itself, and I think when readers have spent a bit of time with my (paranoid?) narrator ‘Daniel’ they will start to feel this way.
In TLDP I explore what happens when normal people become extremely isolated, the impact this can have on their psyche. I inflict a series of truly awful events on my characters and observe the fallout. Sort of like the literary equivalent of holding a magnifying glass over a group of trapped little ants, watching them keel, combust.