Today I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to the blog as she shares her experience of lockdown and dripping her toe in a new field whilst writing her latest book, Rachel’s Story, her first ever dystopian fiction. Before we hear from Leigh, here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness?
As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, the only person Rachel can rely on is her mother. But when her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile.
Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price and Rachel must navigate through a terrifying landscape of persecution to survive.
What is on the other side of the city wall?
Will the repressive government hunt her down?
One thing is certain. Rachel’s world will never be the same again…
My Adventure – Leigh Russell
I have never been adventurous. Change makes me anxious. All my life I’ve sought out circumstances and situations where I feel safe, unthreatened, a place where I can transfer my fears onto the page, whether reading or writing stories. Without fiction I would be, as the saying goes, a gibbering wreck. With it, I am merely gibbering (dictionary definition: prattle, babble, drivel).
Since I like being at home, lockdown has probably not affected me as much as it has some other people. In many ways, my life has not changed. My work has moved entirely online – university teaching, literary festivals, visits to libraries and writers’ groups – and, of course writing. It’s strange to think how we might have fared over the past year without the internet. We have come a long way in our technology since I printed out the first draft of my debut novel and posted it off to a publisher – ‘posted’ in the historical sense of walking down to the Post Office and handing over an A4 envelope which was physically delivered to a publisher. Does anyone else remember those days? My trip to the post office was less than fifteen years ago.
But life moves on and change is always knocking at the door, however secure our locks. During physical lockdown, I have felt secretly relieved of the pressures to leave the safety of my home. Yet in this changing world, we have all been forced out of our comfort zones in different ways. There has been increased pressure to cope with unfamiliar technology applications. This is definitely not one of my comfort zones, as any one who knows me can confirm. There was the embarrassing occasion when I missed the first half of the launch for one of my own books, while I struggled to join the meeting…
And now, for the first time, I have written a book that has temporarily taken me away from my well known crime series and I really couldn’t say why. Maybe it was the experience of living through lockdown prompted my vision of a dystopian future. In a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price and Rachel must navigate through a terrifying landscape of persecution to survive.
Strangely I found my debut dystopian novel easier to write than my crime novels, even though I have written 26 murder stories, with 23 published and at least 5 more scheduled for publication in the next two or three years. I wonder whether writing a story which is not set in the real world gave me a kind of freedom to invent anything at all. Paradoxically, many reviewers have described the book as ‘plausible’, ‘believable’ and ‘authentic’. It remains to be seen how my debut dystopian novel will fare out in the world. So far reviews have been very encouraging, and many readers are calling for a sequel. But I’m still nervous about my venture into dystopian fiction, because this is an excursion into new territory for me. So perhaps I can claim to be a little adventurous after all, at least in my imaginary world as a fiction writer.
Thanks Leigh. I think I’m a bit like you – adventure averse. I try to be pragmatic about change but it sounds as though something a little different has really worked for you. A lesson for us all there! I’m really looking forward to reading Rachel’s Story over the next few weeks.
About the Author
Leigh Russell has sold over a million crime fiction novels, and writes full time. Published in English and in translation throughout Europe and in China, her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson titles have appeared on many bestseller lists, and reached #1 on kindle. Leigh’s work has been nominated for several major awards, including the CWA New Blood Dagger and CWA Dagger in the Library, and her books have been optioned by major television production company Avalon Television. She chairs the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and is a Royal Literary Fellow.
Leigh writes the Lucy Hall mystery series published by Thomas and Mercer.