LifeOfWriters.com is utterly proud to let you all read the inspiring author interview with Darren Young. He released his debut novel Child Taken on 18 May 2017 by Red Door publishing house. He has always enjoyed writing and in 2014 he found a sympathetic coffee shop and started working on Child taken. Keep reading below to get his astonishing answers about his writing life.
Congratulation with your debut novel CHILD TAKEN. What were the best part and the hardest part of your writing journey from beginning to publication?
Thank you very much.
Wow, that’s a tough start. I’d qualify it by saying I found there were an awful lot more lows than highs in the journey which I wasn’t surprised by because I don’t think it should be easy, but I did find it was like constantly climbing a hill only to slip back down again.
The best parts, if I choose two, were the moment when Red Door said they wanted to publish the book and the launch event in May.
I set out with a firm promise to myself that someone had to want to publish the book on its merits. I felt that was my vindication that I’d got it right, if you like and I wanted a publisher to say ‘yes that’s a book for us’ so when they said that it was a superb feeling. It was extra nice because I’d identified them early on as people I’d like to work with and as someone completely new to this, I felt I needed someone to hold my hand through it and they absolutely did that.
The launch night, for obvious reasons, was also great because I’d kept writing a secret for so long that it was lovely to be able to share the achievement with so many friends and family. I was terrified though as standing in the events room at Waterstones in Nottingham on 18 May it looked very big (100+ seats) before anyone arrived and I wondered if it would get half full so when there was a sudden rush just before seven and it filled right up so that late arrivals had to stand at the back, that was such a relief.
The hardest part is trying to get an agent. I knew it would be but it was just so frustrating and I felt that there was so little appetite for taking on new authors and after a while it was the same old response and I wondered if anyone was actually reading the book. I got one meeting, but it was cancelled a couple of minutes before it was due to start and the amount of waiting was almost unbearable and it was as if the industry was putting up any obstacles it could. I know it wasn’t; that was just how it felt being on the outside and in the end, I just decided to plough on and not let it stop me.
But I had a few agents said they really liked it but it was too similar to other books out there and yet, the reviewers and readers have al said how different it is to typical books in the genre so you do wonder. I’ve also had reviewers say things like it’s the best thriller/debut they’ve read and just this morning a reviewer said it was their favorite book of the year and possibly the model of how to write a perfect book and I have thought ‘how did an agent not see this?’ but who knows? The reviews and feedback I’ve got so far definitely suggest there was not only a market but that it was different, which was something I always intended it to be. I suppose it just goes to show how hard it is to break into too.
What inspired you to write CHILD TAKEN?
I knew the moment I had the idea that it was a book that might get noticed. I heard a radio bulletin when they said a young man in his twenties had been taken for DNA tests as they thought he might be Ben Needham. He wasn’t and the news, in the summer of 2014, soon moved on but I thought about it a lot. My feeling was that while we get very wrapped up in the incident itself, all of the people involved go on with their lives – one way or another – and I wanted to explore not only how they did this but also what would happen if the truth ever came back to the surface?
So that was the basis for the story. I was in the car when I heard to news bulletin and I had a very strong idea for the story (from first page to last) by the time I finished the journey and I thought I’d end up changing half of it but when I came to write it a month or so later, I found that nearly all of the original idea worked and the final book was at least 90% of that idea, probably more.
What does your typical writing day look like?
Very mixed. I’m not a 9-5 writer and never could be; I find I work very well early in the day so with Child Taken I tended to get up as early as possible and hit my favourite coffee shop as soon as it opened at 7:30 and write for about an hour or so although it often became an edit on the previous evening’s efforts!
Then I’d do my day job and then start on the book again at about six o’clock for a couple of hours or so. I found that I only had about four hours in a day where I produced anything that was decent and if I went past that, the standard tended to fall. If I was lucky enough to write full time, I’d stick to a similar regime with some early morning and late afternoon sessions. I’m pretty hopeless either side of lunch so I’d have a siesta then instead!
How long did it take you to write your book? Did you plan before you started?
After the original idea, I waited until I had some time off work and spent a couple of days getting the whole story out of my head and into some kind of structure. That was in August 2014 and I then had a framework of about eight chapters that I needed to fill in but I knew what would happen in each one so the planning was quite meticulous in that respect.
I took about nine months to write the first draft and then I did several edits of it until I was reasonably happy and that took another three or four months. It was then I started speaking to agents but during that whole phase I also kept improving with each draft and taking any learning or feedback on board. I also sought some editorial advice and incorporated some of that into the book too and then I also changed the ending; not what happened but the way it did and also let some very close people read it.
By this time it was the summer of 2016 and that was when Red Door came along and it took another nine months or so to get it to the book that came out as the ideas from Red Door and the copy editor really helped improve it further still. I think there is never a point when it’s ready but at some stage you have to say ‘enough’ and be happy with it but even a day or so before the print deadline I was finding words here and there I wanted to change!
What are you writing on at the moment? Will it be the same genre as CHILD TAKEN?
By far one of the toughest steps is moving from the first book to the second. Mainly because you can’t leave the first one completely so you’re doing promotional stuff and constantly trying to get it noticed and that distracts you. But I am also determined that the next book will be as good, if not better, than Child Taken and the benchmark feels quite high so I’m really having to be sure that the story is right.
I’m currently working on it – slowly – and it’s a similar set up to Child Taken in that its very ordinary people thrown into very difficult places with even harder decisions to make. It’s about someone who needs a transplant and the only way requires some incredibly tough choices that also asks a lot of questions about life and death. I was determined that Child Taken was not going to have lots of people dying and killing each other but with this book, it’s a bit unavoidable.
I also have a ‘practice’ book I started a few years ago that I’d like to go back to which is set in a London of the near future where people will do anything to get away but the only way out requires a lot of money and no one has any as the whole country has been abandoned. Both stories are, in my head, love stories about how far we’d go for people we care about – and I think Child Taken was exactly that too. So that must be my thing! I’d love to write both of them eventually but at the moment it’s a case of trying to find time to at least finish one.
What is the best writing advice you can give to aspiring writers?
Firstly, I’d say be careful of taking advice from me! I’m a proper novice who couldn’t get an agent and did most of this by trial and error. But given that at least one reviewer thinks I’ve written ‘the model for the perfect book’ (must try and get the copyright for that) then I must have done something right.
I think if there is some learning I could pass off as words of wisdom, I’d start by saying that if they have the talent (and you have to be able to tell a story, there’s no doubt about that) then you have to be super resilient because the knock backs will come thick and fast and you’ve got to be able to pick yourself up. I’m not great at it but I’ve learnt that you cannot have anything less than a fairly thick skin otherwise you’ll never get to the end of journey. There are way too many parts of it where it feels so tempting to quit.
After that, I’d recommend taking on board anything and everything you can from people who know what they are talking about. I found the input from editors, publishers, publicists, copy editors and the cover designer where all invaluable because these people know what it takes to get a book out there and people reading it, so why wouldn’t I listen to it. You have to be careful not to try to do everything they say because it’s important to stick to your principles and the story but I used to say ‘why wouldn’t I do that?’ and if I didn’t have a brilliant reason not to, I’d follow the advice given. Writing a book is an incredibly lonely and difficult thing as it is, so anyone who wants to help should be welcomed. That said, the reason I didn’t tell many people I was writing a book was so I limited the advice and opinions to a few trusted people.
Oh, and like coffee. You’ll need that to keep you awake!