The Curse Of The Curse
There are a couple of books that have entirely vanished in my occasionally ropey oeuvre. One is ‘Breathe’, a small press thriller I knocked out at great speed, and the other was a YA novel updating a Greek legend.
‘The Curse of Snakes’ was truly cursed. Timing is everything, and everything conspired against me in its writing. First, I hit the problem of my readers’ ages. I’m not a fan of placing age categories on my books – as a child I was reading above my actual age, as I think most voracious readers do. You don’t pick up a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ and find an ‘Suitable for boys aged 12-14’ sticker on it, do you? (At least, I hope not.)
I had written the novel ‘Calabash’ with a young protagonist, but never imagined its readership being limited by age. I figured whether you were young or old you’d find something in it that rang a bell. The same was true of ‘The Curse of Snakes’, but I very much wanted to write in the voice of its teenaged hero. I had written a few short stories with teenaged protagonists and enjoyed myself, so why not a novel creepily updating the Medusa legend to an ordinary London park?
Well, it turned out that there were several reasons why not. First, my new publisher nailed an age bracket on it and wanted me to trim out everything not ‘age appropriate’. I cut the material, rewrote and cut again. We fought over one particular scene toward the end of the book that I absolutely loved. My editor removed it, I put it back, and we played this game for ages, with me hoping I’d eventually wear her down. No such luck; I didn’t and I hated the result. The publisher had promised to set up an amazing interactive website for it, which turned out to consist of a visibly bored PA filming me on her phone. We went through a ridiculous number of cover designs, most of them appallingly cheesy.
Things got worse as not one but two terrible Medusa films came out. ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Percy Jackson’ killed any remaining interest in the subject just as my book was about to be launched. Although I was very proud of the novel I think about eight people bought it. ‘Th Curse of Snakes’ was originally called ‘Hellion’, because I was going to write six Hellion novels, and even wrote plots for all of them – but the book barely appeared so it remained a one-off, rather like ‘Breathe’.
I was glad I found room in the novel to mention the Crazy Rainbow Lady.