Those who don't believe in magic will never find it
- Roald Dahl
Hello! I am the author of The Breathing Ghosts and The Blood Witching- two dark vampire fantasy novels aimed at young adults, and the accompanying short story collection, The Ghosts' Feast. All are available to buy as ebooks from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk. I am currently in the process of writing a new YA Urban Fantasy novel based around Christina Rossetti's well-known poem, 'Goblin Market,' which is very exciting.
I would very much like to think that my work is a mix of humour, magic, myth, drama, romance, fantasy and forbidden love. (Because who doesn't love forbidden love, right?) My work also deals with themes of sexuality, identity, bullying and gender.
I have previously written for For Books' Sake, Mookychick.com, Vampire Review and for the Feminist Library, London. I have given readings from The Breathing Ghosts at Westminster Reference Library, London (with the poets and authors Sophia Blackwelland Roz Kaveney) the Courtauld Institute of Art Literature Society, Freedom Press Anarchist Bookshop and the Feminist Library, London (with the author Liam Livings.) (For videos of my readings, please see my YouTube page.) I have also been interviewed for Dark Gothic Resurrected ezine (Summer 2013 issue,) for Nyx Book Reviews, Fangtastic Books, Short Sharp Reads, The Bookworm Blog and True Colorz. I was a 'featured author' for True Colorz in 2013. (Please see my Portfolio for more details.) I also regularly review YA books and interview authors and artists for my blog.
The new novel I am currently working on will include lots of goblins, lots of fairies, (hurrah!) and one very mean goblin hunter with a hell of an attitude. The working title is, at the moment, Goblincoat. I have included an extract below, for anyone who may be interested! It introduces the character of sixteen-year old Bo, who is half-human, half-fairy. Adopted by human parents as a baby, he has always struggled to fit in with a 'normal' human way of life. He is also- like most teenagers- full of teenage angst and an irrepressible urge to write truly awful poetry.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Writing is my true love, and I have written ever since I was teeny-teeny-tiny. The first 'story' I ever wrote- when I was six years old- involved my cat becoming a superhero (and yes, wearing a very fetching Supercat costume.) When not writing, blogging or reading voraciously, I can often be found searching for obscure vinyl records from the '60s and '70s, as I have a massive collection of records, and it is my pride and joy.) I have cultivated a (mild) obsession with The Lord of the Rings and pretty much anything involving swords, sorcery and men on horseback.
I love myths, legends and fairytales, and this has often influenced my work. My favourite go-to authors are J.R.R Tolkien (of course,) Joanne Harris and Cassandra Clare. I also- obviously!- enjoy meeting with the Greenwich Writers Group, going to the cinema with friends and travelling. (I'm going to stop now,before this ends up sounding like a Lonely Hearts ad.)
Enjoy the extract below!
"Bo, tell us one more time-what exactly did this school nurse person say?" Magda asked. She tried to keep her tone neutral, even light, but she already knew Bo could hear the concern in her low Polish accent. Her hands were clasped neatly in her lap to stop her fidgeting, her wedding band glinting in the early evening light, but she still felt the urge to stop the conversation and leave the room.
Of course, this was to be expected- Bo often had that effect on people. It was just what he did. Magda and her husband, Paul, a bank clerk, had raised him since he was a newborn, and yet whenever he turned those huge green eyes on her, she had to quell an irrational desire to play with her hair, or straighten her blouse, or look somewhere else.
Bo was wonderful, in his own strange way- there was no denying that- and yet there was something so eerie about him, about those eyes that seemed to burn through her very soul. It's not surprising, really, Magda told herself.
She wasn't a fool, and neither was Paul. Hadn't she known all along what she was getting herself into? Hadn't she been warned?
A little voice in her head whispered: But you weren't prepared. Not prepared at all. You walked into this blind, completely blind. And look at you now- look what an idiot you’ve been.
Magda glanced at Bo, and saw him glaring back at her, the haughty, angular planes of his face calm, his blonde hair neat and glossy, but his eyes searing with teenage resentment. She found herself playing with the tiny gold crucifix around her neck. Stop it, she told herself. Stop thinking this way now. For all you know, he can read your thoughts.
“Tell us, Bo,” she said again, as calmly as she could manage.
"Magda, I told you," Bo said, pouting sulkily. "The headmistress said that she were concerned that I wasn't taking the school uniform code seriously enough- that I wasn’t taking school seriously enough.” Bo snorted. “Which is kind of hilarious, considering that the old hag dragged me out of English class so that she could lecture me. We were about to start discussing A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well. I’d be looking forward to it. But no- Hag Face just had to make a example of me. A whole lesson wasted- like that.”
Bo clicked his fingers, and a tiny spark of green light danced on his long, thin fingertips. As always, Magda pretended not to notice, but she felt herself stiffen.
“You shouldn’t call Mrs. Jenkins an old hag,” she murmured.
“Oh, please, I can see right into her teeny tiny miserable little mind. She looks like she’s spent the last fifty years sucking lemons, and she walks like she has a ruler stuffed up her—”
“Bo, that’s enough!” Paul snapped.
“Fine, Paul,” Bo shot back. He had always called them Magda and Paul, never 'Mum' or 'Dad,' not even as an infant.
Sometimes, Magda found herself hoping that one day she would do something right- make things easier for him somehow, scrape away some of the hardness of his everyday life as he fought his way through a tough inner-city school that he hated- and oh, how he hated it-so very, very much.
Then perhaps he would be so filled with gratitude that he would call her 'Mum', just once- just once. It would be so nice just to hear it, to hear him actually say it in that soft, whispery voice he had. No, Magda scolded herself. You're being self-indulgent now. Think of Bo- he's the number one priority, he always will be. Help him through this. Keep him focused on what he needs to do. She realized that Bo was speaking. He leaned back on the arm of their easy chair, one knee propped casually over his leg.
“Anyway, Hag—I mean, Mrs. Jenkins, dragged me into the school office and introduced me to the school nurse, who suggested that I may be feeling uncomfortable in my uniform because I could be apparently unsure of my gender. She then looked me up and down and made notes on her clipboard about my appearance.”
“How do you know that?”
Bo gave one of his characteristic shrugs. “I could see through the clipboard, of course. She wrote a lot of big phrases like ‘gender anxiety,’ and ‘deep seated issues with masculinity’, which was kind of impressive, but then she ruined it all by doing a little doodle of a flower when she thought I wasn’t looking.”
“Why—” Magda began.
“Oh, well I suppose she likes flowers,” he said breezily. “It was one of those ones where all the petals look like fat raindrops. The lady was no artist, clearly.”
Magda put her head in her hands. “I was going to ask- why would she think that?” she murmured through her fingers.
Bo shrugged again. "Because they're right, in a way- I suppose I haven't been taking the school uniform seriously enough."
Magda looked up at Paul, for reassurance. She was comforted to see that he looked less worried than she did. He sat comfortably on their plain white sofa, his elbow propped on a cushion that Bo had hand-embroidered a few years ago. (At a loss for ideas, Magda had suggested that Bo embroider something he liked the look of, so he’d chosen- to Paul’s immense distaste- a quote from David Lee Roth, of Van Halen fame: I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.)
Now Paul was squishing the cushion down with his elbow, as if physically wanting to pummel the cushion so far down into the sofa it would disappear. In contrast to Bo's startling features, Paul’s face was usually so reassuringly familiar - thick brown hair to match thick brown brows, a strong nose with a rounded chin, and a mouth that was usually soft and always bordering on a smile. But now no smile lingered on his lips.
When Magda looked closer, she saw that he seemed to be studying their adopted son, his eyes scanning from the tips of
Bo's pointed leather boots to the curls in his blonde hair, as if he could find out exactly what made who he was- what he was. As if he could see beyond the layers of skin and muscle to find- what? Fairy dust? cogs and gears whirring beneath?
Magda shook her head, and turned to look back at Bo. Her son, she told herself. Her son- no-one else's. She swallowed back the bile threatening to rise in her throat. Over and over again she'd told herself that, and yet the words were still as hollow as a coffin.
Bo leaned forward, causing the long metal chain of stars hanging from one ear to swing.
"Bo, it's important for you to wear a uniform, you know that. Now what about the other thing you said- are you unsure of your gender?"
Bo shrugged again. "I don't see gender," he said tonelessly. "It's not important to me. Why should it matter to other people how I see myself, how I choose to express myself? If I want to dress like a girl, I can. If I want to dress like a boy, I can. It's not like there's a brick wall between what's masculine and what's feminine. Why should outdated notions about gender affect me? Gender is just...an illusion. Something to play with, not a cage to be trapped in." Bo waved his hand dismissively.
"Oh, God, what have you done now?" Paul cut in, his voice surprisingly sharp. “Why are you talking in this fa-la-la, high philosophy kind of way? Every time this you start speaking like this, it just means you’ve done something, and are trying to cover it up- you’ve offended someone, or threatened someone, or tried to sell someone a magic wand, or written some stupid article in the school newsletter about how dragon eggs could be on the black market. Every single time, Bo. Every. Single. Time. What is it now?”
Magda stared at him. Even Bo looked a little startled.
"Nothing!" Bo said defensively, his own voice tart. "Firstly, I only offend those with weak sensibilities. Secondly, I only threaten people if they say highly disturbing things- like how they’ve never read The Lord of the Rings, or that they don’t believe in fairies.”
He waved his hand dismissively, sending tiny green sparks of light spiralling to the carpet. Once again, Magda tried to ignore it.
“Thirdly, dragon eggs are real, but they’re sold at the Goblin Market, not the black market. Any fairy worth his crackernuts knows that.”
At the mention of ‘goblin,’ Magda gave a little yelp of fear, and knocked over her cup of tea, splashing the carpet. With a careless wave of his hand, the tea soared back into the cup, and the cup landed with a smack on the coffee table.
“I just don't see why we have to wear a uniform,” Bo said, rolling his eyes. “It's a horrid thing to do- for teachers to suggest that they want to nurture your individuality, but then force everyone to look the same. I don’t get it. I told the school nurse that, and that’s when she starting doodling on her clipboard."
"But no-one looks the same," Paul sighed. "Everyone has different faces, different bodies."
"Underneath the same shell of ugly red cotton jumpers and black shapeless trousers," Bo snorted. "Besides, you're wrong- the kids in my school all do look the same- they walk around in little cliques, and they all look like clones. The only exceptions are Cordy and Evan."
"Just because you wear a school uniform, doesn't mean you're a clone."
"Oh, doesn't it?"
"Of course not!" Paul said, his voice almost shrill with indignation. "You only have to wear it for a few hours a day! Can't you just do this one thing for us, Bo? Can't you just...try?"
He sounds so weary, Magda thought. When had he become so worn down by their son? Had this been going on for weeks, months, years?
"We love you, Bo," she said, trying for a softer tone. "We just want you to remain as focused as possible on your duty. On what you have to do." She said the words slowly, meaningfully, trying to catch Bo's eye. He just looked away, the bored expression back on his face. She bit back her hurt, and took a sip of tea. It had already gone cold, and if she squinted she could still see a faint green glow around the rim of the cup. She put it down hurriedly, wiping her mouth to get rid of the taste.
"This isn't easy for us," she tried again. "It's not easy knowing that your only son will one day perhaps have to leave you and become...you know. Different.”
“You mean a fairy,” Bo said bluntly. “A fully-fledged fairy, with fully-fledged wings.”
“Yes,” Magda sighed. “But it’s more than that- we might never see you again. You might be so different as a…as a fairy”- she said the word delicately, “that...we might not recognize you."
"I'm already different," Bo all but snarled, "and I'm not your son. Not really. If I was, I wouldn't be in this situation. I'd be just another normal, boring teenager going through normal, boring things. That's what you want, isn't it? For me to be normal. When I'm sorry, but I can't be that. My brain isn't wired that way. I can't be your perfect, happy-go-lucky son. I’m half human, half fairy, and that’s all there is to it."
Bo sat back in his chair, hunching his bony knees to his chest. He felt the heat of guilt swell into his cheeks. He knew he was being cruel, but he couldn't help it. He had that side to him. All the Fae Folk did. Why couldn't they see that? Why couldn't they just let him go already? Everyone would be happier then. No-one would have to try so hard- he wouldn't have to try so hard to be something he wasn't. He looked at Magda, and saw that her eyes were bright. He felt even guiltier, but when he opened his mouth to say sorry, nothing came out but empty air.
"We've never asked you to be that way," Paul said, his tone firm. "Not when you're at home, at least. Here you can behave however you want. We want you to be happy, and believe it or not, we know this is difficult for you. God knows it's difficult for us, too, as your mother has already intimated. But when you're at school, we expect you to at least try to fit in a little more, because otherwise you just draw attention to yourself. And if you draw attention to yourself...well, it means everything is compromised. It's a risk- you just don't know who's watching."
Oh, but I do, Bo thought darkly. Goblins.
"We don't have time for these silly games. You know what I'm talking about," Paul added meaningfully. "Spies are everywhere, they're always looking for a chink in the armour."
Goblin spies, Bo thought darkly.
"You've done well so far, to make friends with Cordy and Evan- with friends who accept you for who you are," Magda said, pushing her tea away from her along the coffee table. "But you need to be careful."
"I love Cordy and Evan," Bo said, with a fierceness that surprised Magda. "They're the best friends I've ever had. I'd never do anything to hurt them." He said those words- those simple, powerful words- so passionately, and with such conviction, that Magda felt something in her heart crack when she looked at him. There was such a loneliness- such a hunger- in his eyes.
"I know you love them," she said softly. She moved towards him, intending to cover his hand with her own, but he slid away, holding his knees even closer to his chest. "We don't want to take them away from you. You need them, we understand," she said gently. "But it was always a risk, to get so close to them. Paul is right- your love for them both could end up blinding you. You could end up putting them in danger. On the other hand, if you draw too much attention to yourself..." she took a deep breath. "Something could happen to you, Bo. You may be different, but you're not invincible. We love you- we don't want you to get hurt."
"I'm not going to change who I am," Bo said stubbornly. Magda ran her hands through her hair. "Don't change!" she said, with a touch of exasperation. "Just tone it down in public!"
Bo folded his arms. The sleeves of his T-shirt were covered in paint splatters. It was rare to see him without a paintbrush in his hand- he was usually in their spare room, painting or sketching. He'd always loved art, and yet the only thing Magda could draw was stick figures. It was just another thing that set them apart from each other.
"Okay then, fine. Give me an example of when I've needed to tone it down," Bo growled. Paul gave a dark laugh.
"Oh, we'll do better than that- we'll give you a list." From the pocket of his jeans he slid out a hand-written leaflet. He cleared his throat and announced:
"I hereby present to you both- the List of Outrageous Things Done by Bo in Public."
Magda scratched her mouth to hide a smile.
"Number One: wearing a gold glittery turban on the bus."
"I'd just washed my hair! It was still damp!" Bo protested.
"Number Two: sneaking out of the house so that we wouldn't see you wearing makeup- including lipstick- and a pink feathery boa to school."
"At least it was over my school uniform! I thought you'd be pleased at that!"
"Number Three: announcing- in the middle of an R.E class- that you don't believe in organized Christian religion, and that instead you have a spirit animal." Paul tapped his chin in mock thought. "Oh, yes- I almost forgot- and that the spirit animal is actually Oscar Wilde."
"He was a genius," Bo said proudly. "I feel very close to him. I feel as though he would have understood me." He put his hand over his heart.
"He's dead," Paul said flatly. "That just means you feel close to a dead person you never met, which is just creepy. Not to mention the fact that he wasn't actually an animal."
"All humans are animals."
Undeterred, Paul continued to read. "Number Four: Writing a poem called 'Betrayed By The Overzealous Loins of My Imagination,' and then reading it out to the entire English class."
"Cordy liked it," Bo said, sniffing. "She said she found it introspective."
"She also said to me that the rest of the class found it so terrible they covered their hands with their ears and begged for you to stop," Magda muttered. Bo looked horrified.
"Number Five: opening the largest window in the classroom every day, for hours."
"It's not easy being claustrophobic!"
"But this was in December, too!" Magda said. "Other students had to study in their parkas and fleece-lined boots! The chalkboard got frosted over!"