Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Mar. 2018)
Available in ebook and paperback (448 pages)
| About the Book |
A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode…A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before. But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…
I have a confession to make. For no other reason other than a catastrophic diary fail (and me being an utter numpty for forgetting to make a note of the date!), I missed my spot on this blog tour last week. My sincere apologies to Sarah, tour organiser Anne Cater and the publisher. Lesson learnt; I am now double checking all my blog tour dates!
As I am now unofficially extending the blog tour, I’m delighted to host Sarah with this guest post.
To like or not to like
by Sarah Bailey
A few months ago I received an email.
‘I understand you are writing a sequel to The Dark Lake,’ the sender wrote, ‘and I suggest that you make Gemma a little bit less problematic in the next book. She is not very likeable and it’s hard for a reader to warm to her.’
I have received quite a lot of emails about my debut novel over the past few months and at least fifty percent of them echo this sentiment. This short email excerpt is on the tame end of the scale. Some of the correspondence has been far more, ah, blunt. Some emails have been downright abusive. It seems that Gemma, the fictional character I dreamed up in my head, certainly got a few people all riled up in real life.
The Dark Lake, was published in Australia and the US in 2017. It has, as you would imagine, been the most incredible experience, a little bit terrifying but mostly wonderful. I have absolutely loved receiving feedback from readers and hearing what they think about the book – good and bad. I think my career in advertising has prepared me well for criticism and subjectivity and I feel quite privileged every single time someone makes the effort to let me know what they thought of my story. But perhaps naively, I did not expect to receive such a robust feedback loop about the likeability of the main character.
The Dark Lake opens with the discovery of a body. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is assigned to the case which turns out to be the murder of an old high school class mate in the small regional town of Smithson, Australia. Gemma is young and ambitious and when we meet her, she is in the midst of a personal crisis and readers spend the majority of the story in her head as she navigates both the homicide and her complicated relationships. Gemma is unashamedly flawed and doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she is deliciously layered and real, or at least that was my intention in creating her.
There has been a lot of talk lately about how important it is that characters are likeable and I think it’s an interesting discussion. Over the years I have certainly liked a lot of fictional characters. Possibly I have even fallen in love with one or two. There have been others that I have loved to hate, and many that have shocked and disappointed me. I think it’s nice when I discover a character that I like but I don’t think that the likeability of the main characters dictates whether I enjoy a book. For me, it always comes down to empathy.
I might not like a character, I might not agree with what they say or what they do but if I can understand where they are coming from, and can see why they are the way they are, then bam, I can relate. I have compassion. And I think it is this understanding that is a critical ingredient in the relationship between reader and character.
When I wrote The Dark Lake I was in a happy little bubble of pre-published creative freedom. I crafted Gemma from scratch with no expectations from others. I barely dared to hope I would be published. Writing the sequel was a completely different experience. By that stage, a lot of people had told me what they liked and didn’t like about Gemma, and how they wanted her to evolve. What they thought should happen next.
I appreciate that every story needs to depict a journey and that we enjoy witnessing a transformation. We like to see people change their ways, give up the booze, get a haircut etc. Redeem themselves. The thing is, just like in real life, change is rarely dramatic. People learn lessons, mature and hopefully evolve and grow but they tend not to perform total black-flips and turn into completely different people. While I understand that Gemma is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is clear to me that I have a responsibility to her develop her character in a realistic way and this outweighs any other responsibility.
So, Gemma remains ‘problematic’ in the sequel to The Dark Lake but for me this is how it should be. She is not a cardboard cut-out, she is a product of her past and the world around her. She wears many hats: detective, mother, daughter and lover. She struggles with expectations and responsibilities. She is human. I’m not sure we would be best friends but I definitely think she is interesting. And most of the time I understand where she is coming from.
I can’t wait for you all to meet her.
Sarah’s debut book, The Dark Lake, is out in the UK now
The sequel, Into The Night, will be published in the UK in 2018
| Author Bio |
Sarah’s first novel, The Dark Lake, was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in May 2017 and in the USA and Canada in October.
Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons.
She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.
Sarah’s second book, Into The Night, featuring Detective Gemma Woodstock, will be published in 2018.