Heart of Thorns is my first Novella and a gripping post-apocalyptic tale of family, loyalty and survival. In a world terraformed by alien urchins, the last of humanity fight to take back their fallen world.
Back at the end of twenty-twenty in the deepest darkest days (I hope) of the Covid epidemic, Michelle at Eerie River invited me along with a bunch of great authors to write a story for a series called AFTER. She’d envisioned a collection of compelling, dark stories that imagined the world after an apocalyptic event. Not the big budget day of our downfall, but the aftermath. The years afterwards. Obviously, if it had been called “during” I could have just written a diary. As it was imagining alternate ways the world could end turned out to be great therapy during a pandemic.
Fast forward six months (gruesome details below) and I give you …. Heart of the Thorns. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic science-fiction then give it a go and let me know your thoughts.
Teasers & Trailers
Back in the day, I used to dabble quite a bit with 3D rendering software. In the pursuit of producing slicker promotional material, I decided to take the book launch as an opportunity to update my skill set and produced three trailers to promote the novella. Things have moved on a little since I last looked at these types of tools and Blender coupled with DaVinci Resolve for post-production are amazing free tools.
Behind the Scenes
Obviously, between the invite and launch date, there has to be blood and tears. This is the longest piece I’ve written, having only succeeded in getting short stories published to date. So, I relished the opportunity. Finally, space to do some character building, story weaving and deliver a meaty story. Thrilled at the thought of getting stuck in I had a couple of ideas I thought would be a great fit. A month later and I struggled as each tale spiralled out into monsters more suited to novels than novellas. Then in an act of serendipity, a few friends mentioned my story Thorn in my Side in Eerie River’s – It Calls from the Sky felt like the start of a novel. That got me thinking and a seed of an idea formed.
Probably the reason that Thorn in my Side feels like the start of a story is that it is. My original concept, influenced by Tim Minchin’s brilliant Upright series was meant to be more of a road trip across an alien scoured Australian landscape. The problem was, it hit the 10k word limit just getting going. So the devastated Uluru and rabbit-proof fence of captured urchins never made it in. Not that these would make it in AFTER either, because as it implies, AFTER is about the aftermath, not the world-changing event.
Heart of Thorns, therefore, fast forwards thirty years after the alien urchin invasion with the last survivors taking refuge in the rocky mountains. Ava, Suzy and Hacket still feature, but the story’s main characters are Ava’s children. Faye and Adan. Born under indigo skies, they’ve only ever known a terraformed world, and it’s a frozen world where the last of us huddle through endless winter nights. I won’t give too much more away other than to say desperate times call for desperate measures and Ava is forced to sacrifice her own children to give humanity one last fighting chance.
The first draft of this story came in at 23k. The upper range of the target being 17k. Needless to say, I got carried away with world-building, great for a novel. Turns out there are limits in a Novella. Lesson learned. We compromised on 20k and I got to work on the tricky second draft. With the goal of taking out 3k while at the same time fixing several plot details. I can assure you there’s nothing more painful than dumping intricate world details that you’ve spent far too much time thinking about. But it has to be done. The story must come first. In all, I think it took longer to edit the second draft than write the first but by the end of it, I was mostly happy. Over to the editor (thanks Simone), to discover I have no clue on capitalisation of titles and even less idea of the differences between Moses and Jesus and it was finally over the line. Well, I say over the line. For me. For the good folk at Eerie River, formatting, cover design, publishing, marketing and god knows how many over hoops remained.
Looking back at it, I’d hate to think how many hours I’d put in but it’s been an amazing learning experience. Mostly in terms of what’s possible and more importantly what’s not in the novella format. The next one, I hope should be far less painful. As my goal for this year is to get 2-3 novella’s published it had better be.
A huge thanks to the good folk over at Eerie River Publishing for the opportunity, the support and, well, getting this story out there.