Since my most recent novel Children of the Folded Valley was released, I’ve received a number of questions and comments that I’d like to address on this blog.
Is Children of the Folded Valley based on a true story?
No. Children of the Folded Valley is entirely fictional, with fictional characters, setting, plot and so on. I am surprised people have asked this, considering the science fiction elements the book contains!
Was Children of the Folded Valley rewritten and the ending changed following the death of my father?
No. The entire novel was written before my father died in May 2012, with the first draft dating back to the summer of 2011. The death of the father in the story was an essential element of the plot, foreseen from the outset. At no point did the main story change for any reason at all.
What is true is that early outlines of the story had the tone of a pulpy conspiracy thriller, told from the point of view of a journalist who stumbled into the Folded Valley and became trapped there. I subsequently decided against this approach, as I felt a more personal point of view was required. Eventually I settled on the idea of telling the story from the perspective of a child who had been born within the Folded Valley.
Does Children of the Folded Valley have some basis in experience?
To a limited degree, yes. My own experiences in a religious cult known as “the Fellowship” took place between when I was born until I was seven. Some of what took place provided inspiration for the novel, but I also drew inspiration from other parts of my life. It is important to emphasise that most of what takes place in the story is complete fabrication with no basis in real events at all.
Which incidents in the story are based on real events?
Mostly minor details. For example, my parents put up Christmas trees in defiance of the wishes of the leadership. Pretty much everything fun was banned; so no television, no cinema, no music (unless it was recorded worship music from the Fellowship meetings) or theatre trips. I wasn’t even allowed to go on school trips or attend firework nights.
Toys were at one point prohibited for no other reason than the leader wanted parents to buy their children presents from the sports shop he had set up. I can actually recall talking to God and asking him why it was so wrong for me to get the toys I particularly wanted, much as James does in the story after the train set incident. Incidentally, trains weren’t something I was particularly interested in, but my father was – hence their inclusion as a recurring motif and metaphor within the plot.
More seriously, we did at one point have an individual living with us who suffered paranoid schizophrenia, and the individual in question did once attack my mother. And yes – it is true that within the cult there were some horrific sexual abuses, financial abuses and many examples of control and isolation perpetuated by the leader. We were not permitted to see friends or relatives who were not a part of the Fellowship, so I was unaware of the many cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents I had for many years.
Will you ever write the true story of what happened in those early years of your life?
Very unlikely, because really it is my parent’s story, not mine. But I hope people enjoy Children of the Folded Valley for what I intended it to be, namely a gripping sci-fi tinged story with a cautionary undertone about abuse of power and deception.
Children of the Folded Valley has proved something of a hit amongst readers. Given how nervous I was about 1) my first grown-up book, 2) the subject matter, 3) my first attempt at a first person narrative and 4) how people would take the ending, I am pleasantly surprised.
The book spent two weeks at the number one spot on Amazon’s free science fiction chart, and remained in the top ten for over a week on the paid chart after the free offer came to an end. Five star reviews continue to pour in from readers across the world.
The novel presently available for Kindle from Amazon:
Print copies are available from Lulu.com:
Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
During a journey to visit his estranged sister, James Harper recalls his childhood in a mysterious valley cut off from the outside world, where he grew up as part of a cult called the Folded Valley Fellowship.
In this seemingly idyllic world, the charismatic Benjamin Smiley claimed to be protecting his followers from an impending nuclear apocalypse.
But the valley concealed a terrifying secret.
A secret that would change Smiley’s followers forever.