A young aristocrat safeguarding a terrible secret, sponsoring an archaeology graduate obsessed with angels. An all-knowing orphan worshiped by a mysterious cult. Britain’s finest example of toxic masculinity and an introverted librarian. Together with a retired demon hunter, they’ll face the apocalypse.
This is the (very short) blurb for my new urban / low fantasy book Wild Court and to say that I’m absolutely delighted to have finished the first draft is quite an understatement. I thought that it’d only been four years in the making, but looking back at my notes, it’s been closer to seven, if I disregard its very early origins.
This book started off as a dream. A very bad dream, but it essentially formed the basis of the bestiary that I wanted to play with, and sat stubbornly in my subconscious for quite a few years.
Then I took a difficult job near Holborn and took to taking long walks at lunchtime to clear my head. Although I disliked the work intensely, I loved the area. I could reach Covent Garden, the Piazza, the Royal Opera House, Waterstones and Hatchards in Piccadilly, all in my lunchtime. Then one time, I walked past Wild Court, just off Kingsway, at precisely the same time as I was wondering how on earth some of my colleagues could be so devoid of humanity and empathy, and an idea took hold.
What if it was endemic? What if empathy really was declining? There are some scientific signs and studies that say it is, but I was thinking more about it as a source of inspiration. What if empathy and kindness served a purpose? What if that decline could have potentially disastrous consequences, and what if there was an order of hidden magicians, monitoring this decline and helping to remedy minor breaches of the peace? What if said order was squirreled away not far from where I was standing, just round the corner from Belgo and Leon, and maintained training facilities in completely inconspicuous, sprawling industrial parks like those in Bracknell?
Suddenly I had more than idea, but it just so happened that we were going away on holiday the next day, so – as I do – I bought a large notebook from Paperchase and began to scribble notes. I wrote thirty-three pages of notes somewhere between London and Edinburgh, and from there, began to flesh out the storyline.
Characters seemed to fly into my head; readers of Small Places might recognise facets of Jamie about one of the MCs, but given the timeline, it’s actually the other way around: Jamie reflects Ben. I do like my characters to have comedic foils, and wanted to turn this all the way up, so we gained Matt, a loud, laddish character with twin streaks of toxic masculinity and loyalty a mile wide each. I needed someone with significant brainpower – two someone’s, actually – so we have Alice, a researcher who has dedicated her life to unravelling a mystery, and Chloe, a mysterious orphan worshipped by her own personal cult.
I changed jobs, and all seemed well, until the new role also came with its own problems, and things slowed. I went on holiday to Aberdeen, with the ambition of making it a writing holiday, but ended up doing quite the reverse; I’d been finding it harder and harder to write, and eventually simply stopped, deciding that I’d come back to the 50k words that I had down at another time. In the meantime, I wrote Parasites, and then Small Places and parts of Dusk.
Then, during the late pandemic, I felt the urge to come back to Wild Court – there was a particularly bleak section that I thought was quite fitting to where we were in time, and I scribbled down another 40k words or so, but again, pausing because of more job-related difficulties.
Finally, with yet another change of job, and the launch of Dusk out of the way, I started to blurt out entire chapters, writing 16k words over the long Jubilee weekend. I missed the celebrations, but I think it was worthwhile.
Now I’m starting the editing process. We’re getting there. I hope to bring a few excerpts when I’ve done some polishing, but for now, rest assured that there’s monsters and magic and librarians and archaeologists and snark and dad jokes and villains and eccentric millionaires and retired demon hunters and found family and stark wildernesses and forests and an all-knowing woman worshipped by her own cult and Norway and Bracknell and dick jokes. It’s been a labour of love, but I really, really love it. I hope you do too.