Just for your information, I have made another pledge, this time to my Twitter friends, that if Shadows on the Moon makes it onto any UK bestseller's chart, I will film myself doing the famous Zolah Happy Dance and post it on YouTube for all to see (and mock, and laugh at). So, if you'd like to see (and mock, and laugh at) that, now is a great time to order Shadows on the Moon in either paperback or Kindle edition, or pick up a copy (or two!) from your local bookshop. You could even ask about it at your local library and make sure that they've ordered one for their shelves. Just sayin'.
And now that bit's over (phew!) I'm going to talk to you about the thing causing all this fuss. My story. The story that was, at various times, called 'The Moon Mask', 'Fair as the Moon' and 'The Shadow Mantle'. The story we now know as Shadows on the Moon. The following post is based on the talk I gave at the Walker Undercover event in winter last year.
Guess what? It wasn't shiny. It wasn't fun. And it definitely was not easy.
Almost straight away, things began to go wrong. My heroine turned out to be much darker and more complex than I had bargained for. The story developed twists and turns I never expected. The world expanded until I had lost track of its boundaries. Within a chapter or two I was having a crisis of confidence. The monologue running through my head went something like this:
I made a mistake. This story isn't ready to be written. It's too big. I should never have started it. I’ll never finish it.
I got stuck for months at a time. I blew two deadlines, one computer, and more braincells than I care to think about.
And it was worth it.
It might be surprising to learn, especially for those of you who know how much I love fairytales - but I have never been a fan of Cinderella. In fact, if you'd asked me growing up, I'd probably have said she was my least favourite fairytale heroine of all. Let’s face it, she’s the classic wimp. Throughout the entire fairytale Cinderella never seems to take a single action to improve her lot in life. All she does is sigh and whine and wait for other people to save her – which they duly do, first her fairy godmother, and finally the prince.
But what did Cinderella do to deserve any of that? I'm sorry, but being beautiful and obedient just don't cut it in my view. She never shows a scrap of determination, strength or intelligence. I mean, if I was in her situation and my fairy godmother had arrived in a puff of smoke asking what I wanted, I’d have requested something a bit more practical than a nice dress and a ride to the ball. How about a box of my mum’s jewellery and a coach ticket out of town? Who would just throw away their one chance at freedom to go and sip lukewarm lemonade and get stepped on by some random prince's feet?
For years I'd been rolling my eyes at Cinderella and crossly muttering to myself that no real person - no real girl, with a real heart and a real mind - could be that spineless. And then one day, out of the blue, it occurred to me to ask: What if Cinderella wasn’t? What if she WASN'T a wimp? If that persona was an illusion. A disguise...
The story flipped in my head. Immediately I saw that a character who was intelligent, cunning and devious enough to play the role of Cinderella would have to have a really good reason to endure all that she does in the story. She would have to want something very badly, badly enough to risk her own soul to get it.
REVENGE. Revenge for the murder of her father. After all, the first important thing that happens in Cinderella is her father's death. The story never says how he died, but what if it was murder?
I began to see that my Cinderella would hide as a common drudge in her enemy’s kitchen in order to preserve her life. And when she rose from the dirt and ashes she would become, not some imitation fairy princess, but the most beautiful courtesan in the land, determined to go to the ball, not to wear a pretty dress and dance with the prince, but to crush her enemy.
And then I began to think of all the ways it could go wrong. All the ways that living a life of such darkness and deception would hurt and twist and eventually destroy a person, no matter how strong they were. I began to wonder just what could save my Cinderella from the vengeance she had sacrificed everything to achieve.
Shadows on the Moon is a story about transformations, and about how sometimes in our quest to leave our pain behind, we can accidentally leave ourselves behind as well.
It's a story about how deception hurts everyone, even the one practising it.
It's a story about illusions and how - frighteningly often - is it easier to believe in lies than truth.
But most of all, Shadows on the Moon turned out to be a story about love. About how, like my version of Cinderella, it can wear many faces. And some them are dark and terrible. But ultimately, the story is about how love can bring you back to yourself when even you thought that you were lost forever.
Here's the trailer again, in case anyone missed it on Sugarscape (or just wants to see it again). And I've been authorised to tell you that if the views on this trailer get up to over 1,000, there may be extra trailer related goodness on offer - like deleted scenes. Yeah, baby! Tell your friends!