Guest: SJI Holliday – Why Did I write Black Wood?
Today I am pleased to welcome SJI Holliday who visits just 24 hours after the digital publication of her debut novel Black Wood.
I am delighted to be able to share this fascinating insight into why the novel was written:
Why did I write Black Wood?
By SJI Holliday
Back in 2006, the first thing I wrote – years after leaving school – was the start of a novel about a supernatural bridge where people went missing into some sort of time slip. It was based on a real bridge, with a strange plastic covering over the top of it to prevent suicides. It was wobbly and it echoed, and because of a weird hidden bend, you couldn’t see people walking towards you until they were quite close and they seemed to appear from nowhere. I started writing this (in a notebook I’d bought in a Japanese 99p store) on a long-distance train journey between China and Russia. I didn’t get very far. Reading it back, I realised it wasn’t going to work until I refreshed myself on the nuts and bolts of writing technique.
After that, I attended a night class in London, where I went back to basics and learned about story structure, character and point-of-view. I started writing very short stories – which I found out were known as flash fiction – and I gained a collective gasp from the class as I read out my neat little tale about a man who’d embalmed his wife.
My influences come from horror… Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sean Hutson, James Herbert. Then from crime: Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, Mark Billingham, Peter James and Mo Hayder. So I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I didn’t want to write a police procedural, as I found that my interest lay more with the victims of crime, and the horrors they face – plus, I am not too keen on research as I am a world-class procrastinator! I had loads of ideas and I started several novels, but none of them made it past the 10k words mark.
I was desperate to finish something. I asked other authors for advice, and it was always the same. Just finish something, anything – it does not have to be “The One”. I knew I needed a bigger draw, something to hook me in to help me keep going. So I turned my thoughts to my own past, my own experiences, and a memory from a long time ago. Something that stuck with me, but something that I was sure no one else really remembered – to the point that I started to think I’d made it up.
But I didn’t… two little girls did go into the woods, many years ago. And something bad did happen. I just embellished it a bit, as is my artistic right. So if you read it, you can let me know what you think… and see if you can work out the nuggets of truth amidst the dark things that my imagination conjured up.
Oh, and one day, I’ll go back and finish that story about the bridge.
Black Wood is available now through the Kindle store and will be published
in paperback by Black & White Publishing on 19th March 2015.
SJI Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com.