Tomorrow marks four years since Blackthorn was launched. Blood Shadows was officially released on 27th November 2012. Since then Blackthorn has sold in six figures, reached readers in several countries and obtained numerous number ones in both the Gothic and the PNR charts on Amazon as well as having reached the Top 50 on Amazon.com’s main kindle charts too. Blood Shadows was even optioned by Hollywood movie giants Relativity Media! It’s been quite the four years. And next year it’ll all be coming to an end with the series finale.
To mark the occasion, and to keep to the theme of 8 Blackthorn books, I thought I’d share… 8 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT MY CREATION OF BLACKTHORN. Oh, and look out for details of a giveaway at the end!
1) BLACKTHORN IS TWENTY YEARS OLD THIS YEAR!
Although tomorrow marks four years since Blackthorn was first published, it’s actually twenty years old this year!
2) IT STARTED ONE DARK AND STORMY NIGHT…
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly stormy but it did all begin one night. I’d moved to a city over 300 miles away from home to begin my first teaching job. After an evening out with my new colleagues, I managed to get lost on my way home. With no one at home to expect me and with 1996 hardly being the era of mobile phones, I had no option but to try and navigate my way alone through the empty city streets. It wasn’t long before I became increasingly lost as well as deeper into unfamiliar territory. So, during that time, I did what every self-respecting scared-out-of-their-wits author does and made up stories to keep calm and distract myself – and Blackthorn was born.
3) BLACKTHORN BEGAN AS A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES
From then on Blackthorn became a labour of love. I never intended it to be published, instead it was one of many simultaneous projects I had underway. Some went by the wayside but Blackthorn was one idea I simply couldn’t walk away from.
Once I had the concept behind Blackthorn, I wrote short stories to get to know the world. The stories were set in various districts across the locale, from Blackthorn to Summerton. Once the idea behind the overarching plot – the downfall of this oppressive society – took hold, the key contenders were already clear. Kane and Caitlin, Caleb and Leila, and Jessie and Eden all evolved from those short stories into what Blackthorn is today. The only exceptions were Jask and Phia.
4) THE UNDEAD DON’T EXIST IN BLACKTHORN
I’ve caused much confusion amongst some readers and reviewers by bending the mythological rules. For one thing, only lycans have fangs whereas vampires have an extra set of feeding incisors instead. None of my “third species” as I call them are immortal, nor are they cursed or contaminated, and they most certainly aren’t the undead! Why? Because apart from rare occasions when these “creatures” were constituted as deities, they have almost always been associated with evil origins. This was further enforced by the introduction of Christian ideologies, with vampires in particular not only deemed as a risk to our physical self but our spiritual self too. Then there’s the influences of literature and films in the mix. I wanted to come from the angle that just because we don’t understand something doesn’t automatically make it evil – one of the fundamental themes behind Blackthorn.
After all, one of the greatest freedoms of being a writer of fantasy is the ability to be selective about which aspects of mythology to apply. The creation of my third species is as much about characterisation and plot as fitting in logically into the Blackthorn world I’ve created.
5) I ONCE DESTROYED BLACKTHORN BEFORE REBUILDING IT
After I’d finished putting Blackthorn together, I stuck my head above the parapet to try and work out its potential for publication. But what had begun during a time when PNR was rarely found on the shelves was then faced with a market overwhelmed with vampiric heroes and fantastical urban underworlds, let alone well-established names globally dominating the genre.
Despite the knock of confidence, I started to look for publishing opportunities – only to find that, for those who accepted unagented submissions, Blackthorn didn’t meet their guidelines. Not only were my books too long, the preference seemed to be for standalones (especially from debut novelists unable to prove they could sustain a complex series). Most of all, my heroes didn’t conform to readers’ expectations. All in all, Blackthorn looked like it would be too high a risk to pursue.
So without even attempting to submit anywhere, I tucked Blackthorn away in my bottom drawer as I focused on a different genre.
It was only when my dad passed away in 2007 that I returned to Blackthorn, determined to pursue my dream of getting it published one day. To try and up my chances, I pulled out all of the overarching plot threads to the series and started turning Blackthorn into stand-alones.
The biggest clincher for signing with my current publisher was when they read Blood Shadows and Blood Roses and suggested that maybe Blackthorn could extend beyond three books. More than that, they asked if maybe I saw potential for an overarching plot to tie all the books together. I couldn’t pull all of my original notebooks out of my bottom draw quick enough!
6) BLACKTHORN USED TO LOOK VERY DIFFERENT
Those who supported Blackthorn from the beginning will know that the covers of Blood Shadows and Blood Roses once looked very different. They were designed by Henry Steadman and had a much more traditional Gothic feel. They also incorporated red, white and black. According to folklore, these are the three colours associated with the Blackthorn plant. (If you’d like to know why I called the series ‘Blackthorn’, you can read about it here.)
Before Blood Torn’s release in February 2014, Bookouture decided to give the series a brand new look with a contemporary urban edge.
7) JASK AND HIS PACK WEREN’T GOING TO HAVE A STARRING ROLE
Up until the point I was offered a publishing contract, there were only six books in the series (seven if I split the finale into two). I’d initially been signed for three. When it came to discussions for the third book, I was ready to move on to Jessie and Eden’s story. However, my editor at the time as well as author Michele Hauf (who was my mentor during the writing competition through which I was discovered) both felt Jask Tao deserved a story of his own.
I already knew the role Jask and Phia played in the overarching Blackthorn story (no spoilers for anyone who hasn’t got that far!), but I never intended a romance between them, nor to explore the lycans’ plight in Blackthorn in any great detail. Instead I’d planned to keep the focus on the vampires in the story. In addition to that I have a deep-rooted fear of lycanthropy so didn’t think I’d be able to write Jask as an appealing enough hero!
Since then, Jask has gone on to become one of Blackthorn’s most popular heroes – and it’s all thanks to my wonderful first editor and the fantastic Michele Hauf.
8) I WAS STILL TEACHING WHEN I WROTE THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS
Like the vast majority of published authors, writing wasn’t my only job when Blackthorn was launched. It’s a myth that once you get a publishing deal, you give up the day job and spend all of your days writing books. In fact, for the first four Blackthorn books I was still holding down a teaching job. I’d be teaching lessons to teenagers one day and then immersed in Blackthorn the next, swapping lesson planning and reports with book edits and fan mail. It wasn’t until January 2015 that I started writing full time. By that time, I’d waited almost 30 years to get to that point. If you love something enough, I guess you hold on for as long as it takes.
So that’s it – 8 facts you may or may not have known. And as you can see, Blackthorn had been on quite the journey even before it reached your shelf/device!
I’ll be back tomorrow to mark the official day with a GIVEAWAY BUNDLE for one lucky winner.
Until then, I’m thrilled to say I was invited to a special anniversary interview with ‘My Bookworm Blogger’.
I was asked some of the most insightful Blackthorn-related questions I’ve ever had, so please do head over and take a look. Stephanie’s also giving away a SIGNED PAPERBACK of my latest release BLOOD BOUND as well as an exclusive SIGNED Blackthorn POSTCARD!
Have a wonderful evening and ‘see’ you tomorrow! <3