When Ali Land was 15 there was a infamous child murder case (I won’t mention which one because I feel it is still too close to us) and she wanted to
know why they were different, and how other children can survive in extreme circumstances and then she read Silence of the Lambs at a young age, the first book to terrify and thriller her. These things stayed with her into adulthood, becoming a mental health nurse, and her dissertation on children who kill. These all planted the first seeds of her debut novel Good Me, Bad Me.
Last year I heard Ali Land speak at the Guardian Masterclass ‘How to find a literary agent with Juliet Mushens’ Her novel’s release was still year in the future, and little did I know then about the huge journey it still had before it became a novel ready for the world. I kept my eye out, I was intrigued as her novel sounded chilling and thrilling.
Lucky for me Ali Land gave her first public appearance as a published author last week at Library a small bar near Leicester Square. It was intimate, and Cathy Rentzenbrink did a wonderful job of drawing the audience in, as did Ali.
There were 1000 words circulating when Ali Land was approached by agents, she realised she needed to finish it, and went on to write the first draft in 4 months. She submitted cold to Juliet Mushens on a Sunday before rushing off to shave her legs, ten minutes later the full manuscript was called in, and on the Tuesday she had signed on. A few days after editing, they submitted, and her publisher Penguin was one of two publisher offering a contract. There were also early movie offers, but nothing has moved forward yet.
Of her experience, Ali said the most important relationship is that with your editor and agent. Especially when you’re asked to double the word count.
To write this novel Ali Land had to go back into her memory and revisit conversations she had had as a mental health nurse, one of them was with a girl trapped in a cycle of self harm, and the reasons behind that were haunting, then she had to let herself feel the emotions she had stored up, and deliver an authentic representation.
When asked “How did you self protect while writing Good Me, Bad Me?”, she replied “lots of red wine” but in seriousness “being a mental health nurse gave her the skills to remain a functional human”
And the best piece of advice (summarised)- tell your self doubt to shut up, write down all the words, then take a break, then edit, then submit. “All words are bollocks, but you have to keep the faith”
I read the novel when I got home, and then to compare, I looked at the query letter that I had from the Guardian Masterclass ‘How to find a literary agent with Juliet Mushens‘. The finished novel was different, but in a good way, it was more focused on Millie, the main character, more intense, and ultimately would leave the reader with more questions ‘and then?’
Disclaimer: Featured photos are saved from internet sources and are not the product of my own skills. All workshops/events are paid for by me and all reviews are mine from my own notes, opinions and experiences.