Mental Health & Naming the Bones

I probably should have posted about this a long time ago, but Andrew Knighton has written an incredible blog post about the portrayal of mental health in Naming the Bones (which you can find here)

And there are minor spoilers for Naming the Bones, if you haven’t yet read it.

My intention in writing Naming the Bones was always to shine a light on the monsters inside of us. The things we do in service of them, or to escape them: in Alessa’s case, learning to cope, taking circuitous mental routes around the trauma embedded inside of her like scar tissue. The ritual of ‘naming the bones’ as a distraction technique, but also a way of grounding oneself, because panic is a rising tide but there are ways to float. And simply finding the wherewithal and motivation to keep going, keep pushing, when you’re too tired to tread water and hiding from the world seems the only option. Both are normal. I wanted that to be clear. Alessa wants to rebuild her life, but she has to heal a little first.

And then Casey. I loved writing Casey. She’s based (partially) on a real person towards whom I have very complex feelings, negative and positive. I suppose in many ways she is a personification of not coping. She can do it on her own, except she’s not doing anything: she’s not rebuilding, not coping. She doesn’t tell anyone about the Shades. And then Alessa comes along, and suddenly, for the first time, Casey is not alone. That’s a key thing about Casey, and something I hope people pick up on as they read. I don’t believe she’s villain, or a bad person, despite the terrible things she does: she’s someone who was hurt, and who had nobody to help her cope, or rebuild.

As Andrew says, in his blog post:

In Alessa’s case, the trauma monsters make the process of rebuilding very real. Alessa has the chance to literally face her demons, but she has to decide whether that’s the right path for her, as well as how to deal with the darkness when she faces it. And she has to decide who she can trust, whose advice will help and whose will lead to disaster. Because facing monsters, like digging into your own emotional baggage, can be self-destructive if it goes wrong.

Launching the Bones at Edge-Lit

I had anticipated that my first ever Edge-Lit would be a universally terrifying event. Besides the usual people-related nervousness (horror people are lovely, social anxiety less so) there was also the fact that I would be launching my novella. In person. In front of people. Cue visions of a mountain of unsold books, Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’ playing in the background.

Fortunately I had underestimated the friendly, cosy atmosphere – a multitude of familiar faces and some new ones, all equally lovely, crammed into a small space filled with likeminded people. I’d brought my husband along too, and while he was a stranger to most of the people there it wasn’t long before he’d been welcomed into the fold as well.

The launch itself went better than I could have hoped for. It was a shared launch, both for my novella and for Mark West’s excellent collection ‘Things We Leave Behind’, both published by Dark Minds Press. (A word about Dark Minds Press: they are superb to work with, take excellent care of their authors and I would recommend them to anyone in a heartbeat.) Mark and I each read from each other’s work, which was Mark’s idea and in my opinion a stroke of genius – it’s much easier and less nervewracking to read from someone else’s story, which you are enthusiastic about, than it is to try to ‘sell’ your own!

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(l-r Mark West, Ross Warren, me)

We managed to sell all copies of both our books, which was obviously incredibly exciting. (Mark’s traditional post-con bloggage can be found here.)

Though there were some notable faces missing from the event (who I very much hope will be at Fantasycon, as they were missed!) it was a great day – the redshirts were on typically good form and everything ran like clockwork. I also got to see Joanne Harris, Alison Moore, Andrew Michael Hurley, Marie O’Regan and Catriona Ward talking about literary horror and the interplay between the two genres, which was a great panel – Joanne Harris in particular was persuasive and a joy to listen to.

As to the general classiness and excellency of the Dark Minds team – check out the special gift I got from Ross & Anthony. I’m glad my eternal love for Alex Krycek is so well known!

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Naming The Bones is here…

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My debut novella Naming The Bones is now available for purchase over on Amazon. Hooray!

As I mentioned a few days ago, Dark Minds Press are holding an official launch for Naming The Bones (alongside Mark West’s new collection Things We Leave Behind) at Edge-Lit on Saturday 15th July, and you can also pick the book up there. Mark & I will be there, and we can even put a squiggle in your copy if that’s your thing.

To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt:

She frowned, turning a circle in search of a sign. Loman Street. Offices on the right, a long, windowless building on the left. Somewhere along the way she’d taken a
wrong turn.
The mosquito whine of a building alarm sounded from somewhere nearby. She heard the low thrum of traffic ahead; a main road, still busy even at this hour. It would be easy enough to get her bearings there. She set off, suddenly aware of how dark it was down here, how few of the street lights seemed to be functional. The sour smell of overripe binbags drifted in on the wind. The shrill sound of the alarm seemed to carry a long way in the quiet. Her shadow waxed and waned as she passed between the lights, limbs stretched, form distorted. Just like…
No. She shoved her hands in her pockets. It wasn’t real. I proved that.
Behind her, close by, something skittered out into the road.
A fox, she told herself, though she felt her pace quicken, her muscles tightening. Lots of foxes around here. The sound came again, closer still, and it seemed that there were eyes on her, tracking her frantic motion; her fingers closed around the keys in her pocket, slipping them between her knuckles.
Occipital, parietal…
She was tipsy and alone, and a woman walking solo on a dark, isolated street was an
easy target. Her screams would be lost beneath the wail of the alarm. Nobody would
come for her. Nobody would know she was here.
Frontal, temporal, sphenoid…
She sucked in a deep breath and peered over her shoulder.
Something long and thin retreated into the shadows.

Naming the Bones at Edge-Lit 2017

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My debut novella ‘Naming the Bones’ is being released at Edge-Lit in Derby on 15th July, and I am lucky enough to be sharing a book launch with the excellent Mark West, whose superb collection ‘Things We Leave Behind’ is also being released at Edge-Lit. Both books are published by Dark Minds Press.

If you’re there, please consider popping along and saying hello – and maybe even picking up a book or two.

Cover reveal for Naming The Bones

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Is there anything more exciting than the moment your book becomes Really Real? Peter Frain has done an incredible job on the cover, which draws heavily on motifs from the story. And Ray Cluley has very kindly provided a highly complimentary cover quote.

“Naming The Bones” is due to be published in July by Dark Minds Press, and will be available in both paperback and ebook format.