Now I’m working on the final part of The Orcadian Novels, I’ve been reflecting on the first—Body of Water—that will always have a special place in my heart.
It was my first novel. Sure, I’d been published before, both as a food writer and as co-author of M/M Romance Isali Dreams, but this was my baby.
The title came first, springing from my love of the ocean and a strong desire to write a contemporary fantasy story set in the UK and featuring a main character with the power over water.
My research into water-related magic took me straight up to Orkney via the wonderful Orkneyjar website. As soon as I started reading through the wealth of information curated by Sigurd Towrie, I was hooked. Here were the building blocks for my overall story’s folklore and my main character’s backstory.
I wrote the first draft in 2009 with only a few set pieces in mind, like an animator’s key frames. Once I had those down, I went back and put in all the connecting scenes.
Then it was done, and I didn’t know what to do next, so I put it away and got on with my life.
It wasn’t until I started Writebulb—a writing group based in Chelmsford, Essex—with three other writers I met via NaNoWriMo, that I picked up Body of Water again. When children’s author Kate Tenbeth asked me what I was about my mind went blank, and I realised that if I couldn’t summarise the story into a few sentences then I hadn’t got the structure right.
With time to cool off, I was able to look at it with new eyes and spent the next seven months editing for structure and deciding on the relative weighting of the adventure and romance plots.
Within days of release it went to number one on Amazon UK’s Gay Fiction chart. And stayed there. For six months.
I made enough money to go part-time at work, hire Derek Murphy to create a new cover, and hire Victoria Mixon for a development edit of Memory of Water.
When Body of Water was made into an audio book, I took the opportunity to make changes to the manuscript: 1043 changes to be exact.
It was a period of great change in my life that cemented what I wanted to do creatively. I’ve recently graduated with a master’s degree in Professional Writing from Falmouth University that taught me, among other things, to reflect on my writing.
Looking back on Body of Water, I can see that it’s not perfect, and there are still changes I’d like to make, but I can also see the seeds of something greater – the beginning of a writing career into which thousands of hours have been invested without losing one thousandth of enthusiasm.