To say 2020 hasn’t gone the way I expected so far would be an understatement. However, in one respect it has gone to plan: I have just finished the first draft of my latest novel.
I won’t announce the title just yet, so let’s call it The White Nest for now. That won’t be the final title, but the White Nest is an element of the narrative. What is the White Nest? Is it something sinister? Obviously. This is a gripping gothic mystery akin to all my previous endeavours in that genre, including The Birds Began to Sing, The Irresistible Summons, Spectre of Springwell Forest, The Thistlewood Curse, and Phantom Audition.
The White Nest has a full checklist of my favourite gothic tropes, including a sleepy south-west England village, haunted forest, eerie mansion, secret tunnels, dubious secret experimental facilities, occult secret societies, ghosts, demons, curses, mysterious disappearances, childhood memories buried by trauma, rug-pulling twist ending… you name it. You could even call this novel Now That’s What I Call A Simon Dillon Gothic Mystery if you really wanted to, as it is something of a compilation of my preoccupations, genre wise.
Like some of my earlier novels, this one also straddles the borders between mystery thriller and supernatural horror. However, one key trope has changed. Instead of a tenacious imperilled heroine at the centre of the drama, this story features a male protagonist. In fact, this novel is different in a number of ways, because it is a highly personal work. Yes, I know, all writing is personal to some degree, but this one really does jab some of my raw nerves in the themes it explores – including the challenges in sibling relationships, parental fears, false guilt, coming of age, and more. In that respect, it is my most “personal” work since Children of the Folded Valley.
The actual plot? Sorry, that remains top secret for now. It’s likely to remain top secret for some time too, as I need the dust to settle on this one, before I return to it with a fresh eye. Although presently a hefty 105,000 words or so, I hope to shave about 10,000 words from that length, deleting a few less essential subplots and/or characters, much like what happened with The Irresistible Summons.
As for what I’ll be writing next, I do have a nifty idea for a fantasy novel, based on a rather strange dream I had last year. When I shared this dream with a colleague, she said that if I didn’t turn it into a book, she would! At any rate, I hope to begin at least outlining this one soon.
In between planning, I’ll probably pen the odd short spooky story, including one (or possibly two) set during the present pandemic. Watch this space.