Listening to Readers

Stranger-Child-thumbnailEarlier this year, I published a novel – Stranger Child – which did very well for me. It’s a novel I’m proud of. In the UK it has just under 1300 Five Star reviews and was the 11th highest selling book on the UK Kindle in the first six months of the year – and that’s across all authors – just being pipped into the top ten by Lee Child (but that’s fair enough!). However, as Stranger Child only came out at the end of February, thereby losing two months’ sales, it would have been interesting to see what the picture might have been with a full six months to go on!

As I said, the reviews were fantastic – but I got a lot of letters, tweets, and Facebook posts from readers who had fallen hook, line and sinker for one of the characters. It’s hard to be specific without giving the story away, but when I came to write the end of Stranger Child there was only one possible ending for this particular character. I was so firmly in her head that I knew exactly what would happen to her.

It wasn’t the ending the readers wanted. Surprisingly for thriller readers, they wanted complete closure, and with the character in question that wasn’t possible.

What was particularly wonderful about their feedback was the fact that they wanted more! They had grown to love the characters – care about them. And it wasn’t enough that the story finished in the only logical place, they wanted to know what happened next.

To me, that was the greatest possible compliment. My readers actually cared about my characters. Not just until the book finished, but beyond that.

So how could I resist writing a sequel? I began to wonder myself what had happened to this character, how her life had resolved itself. Once I started to write, the story began to tell itself. It really mattered to me that the story went somewhere, but not necessarily somewhere predictable and comfortable; somewhere real, and maybe a bit scary.

I started by writing this for my readers, but I ended up doing it for my character and for me – I needed to know what happened next.

The important thing was, though, that people could come to this book fresh – without having read Stranger Child first. That was a challenge, but there were enough opportunities to fill in the gaps without retelling the whole story (and driving the readers away).


So now we have Nowhere Child – a short novel at just 35,000 words. It’s going well – the reviews are fabulous (but now that I’ve said that, bring on the trolls!) – and I am so, so glad that I wrote it.

It had been suggested to me before that I write a novella, but I always resisted. I generally don’t enjoy reading them as much as full-length novels. But in the end Nowhere Child came out at 178 pages – a reasonable length – and I have to say that, thanks to my wonderful readers, I thoroughly enjoyed this writing experience.

So thank you – all those of you who persuaded me. It was the right thing to do.

And if you read it, be sure to let me know what you think.


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