Ex-DI Rachel’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.
Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down and kill him.
However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers some unnerving information about her mother and others in her family and begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks – that she might be about to murder the wrong man…
Today it’s my turn on the blog tour for the debut novel by JA Corrigan, Falling Suns, a psychological thriller published by Accent on 14 July, and available in paperback and for kindle. Now, I don’t want to worry the author, but those of you who know me well will know that dark and gritty isn’t something I tackle very often, and I do really rather prefer to avoid secure psychiatric units. I’ll be honest and say I even thought about giving up at one point… maybe we could just run with the guest post? One last push, I thought… and then something rather wonderful happened. There was a change of focus for a while, Rachel made her decision on revenge – and I simply couldn’t put the book down until the very last page.
My review follows below, but first I’m delighted to welcome author JA Corrigan – Julie-Ann – to Being Anne…
Hi Anne, thank you for having me on your blog today. On other guest posts I’ve talked about inspiration for the novel’s themes and characters, so today I thought I’d talk more about the journey towards the publication of my first novel, Falling Suns.
In 2009 and as my daughter began to grow up I started to think about writing. I’d always had the desire to write; I loved reading as a child, and wanted to make up stories like my favourite authors – at the time Enid Blyton (I loved The Naughtiest Girl in School – even then I think I erred to the rebellious!) JRR Tolkien, whose characters in The Hobbit took me away to another world and even after finishing reading I’d stay in that world for weeks. The same went for CS Lewis and the Narnia tales.
I signed up for a Start to Write Fiction course with the OU, completed it and with the tutor’s words imprinted inside my mind, ‘carry on writing’ I did indeed carry on. I was lucky and managed to get my first short story published in 2010 and in the same year I discovered the York Festival Writing Festival, where a short and humorous piece I’d written about Madonna was put on the reserve list to be read out at their Friday Night Live session.
They didn’t need a reserve, but I was truly hooked, and the following year in between writing short stories I started writing my first novel. I’m a history buff and also fascinated with Spain; I managed to outline a story set within the Spanish Civil War, but also 1970s UK. Inspiration for my male British character who went to fight against Franco came very much from my maternal grandad.
I finished the novel and naively started submitting to agents. One agent showed some interest and encouraged me to rewrite. Still not really knowing how to construct a 120,000 word epic, I had another go and wrote another draft. A bit more interest from agents but no takers.
At this time I was working nearly full-time and only managing to write a few hours a week. I sat back and re-evaluated, and also at that time began reading more in the psychological thriller genre.
I had a strong idea for a story and wrote the first draft very quickly – that was the first draft of Falling Suns. I submitted to agents again and lots of interest again, but again no takers. I put the manuscript to one side and rewrote the historical. I resubmitted – interest – but still no.
I went back to the psychological thriller and rewrote that (trust me, being a writer is all about the rewriting and redrafting, and all about dogged persistence).
This time I received real interest from both a publisher and an agent … but yes, you’ve guessed, it needed another draft. This last draft of Falling Suns is what secured me a deal with an agent and also got an offer from the publisher. That was in 2015. It had taken me five years to get to where I wanted to be as a baby writer at the York Writing Festival.
Of course I was ecstatic, and still am. But I know that this is only the beginning and I knew that I had to start writing another book, which I did as soon as I signed the deal last summer.
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning” Louis L’Amour said. Watch this space – I have a long way to travel, but at least I am doing what I love to do. Writing stories.
Thank you JA – and I wish you every success. In addition to Amazon, Falling Suns is available from WH Smith, Waterstones, the Guardian bookshop and the Daily Mail bookshop.
I must admit that I did find the unrelenting darkness of the early part of this book very hard to read – not only because of the child abduction and murder, but because of the rawness of the emotion. The fact that it was so difficult to read is a tribute to the excellent writing, but I would have rather liked just a few glimmers of sunshine.
Other than Rachel herself – I could always see the promise there – the characters are universally and disgustingly dreadful. Even the police are riddled with corruption, fighting among themselves. They’re all very well drawn – Rachel’s parents, Michael’s parents – and the dysfunctional relationships very realistic, but I really couldn’t blame Rachel’s husband Liam for staying out in his shed.
Things do change though, and quite dramatically. The story moves forward in time, and we follow Jonathan for a while as he conducts his own investigation into what really happened. And we spend time with Michael on the psychiatric wing – very disturbing, but totally impossible to stop reading. And then we follow Rachel as she prepares for her revenge – and it’s absolutely enthralling as she sets about establishing her new identity in readiness for what she plans to do.
As the story unfolds, so do the layers of secrets and deception: the whole story is quite horrific and raw, but filled with tension and darkness, and I’d defy anyone not to be drawn in by it. And the story’s climax is quite wonderfully done. You might have your own idea where it might be going – the clues are there if you’re looking carefully enough – but the journey there is really quite a ride.
This book was many miles outside my personal reading comfort zone, and that makes it difficult for me to judge whether others might love it from the start. The writing really is excellent, and really powerful – the raw emotion, the family dynamics and the evil people are capable of are captured quite superbly. And the story sucked me in totally, and spat me out – quite exhausted – at the end. My personal preference might be for the sunnier side of the street, but this really was quite a read – and certainly one I’ll not forget in a hurry.
My thanks to author JA Corrigan and publishers Accent for my advance reading e-copy. Follow the continuing blog tour here:
JA Corrigan now lives in Berkshire, but was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Her maternal grandad was a miner, her paternal, a baker. Her gran worked on a fruit and veg store in Mansfield’s market square. After A Levels she completed a Humanities degree in London, majoring in History and English Literature. She then went on to train and work as a physiotherapist.
She loves to run, cook, and drink good wine. She likes to read great novels, autobiographies and a diverse range of non-fiction. Adoring travel, JA seems to be at her most creative, and most relaxed, sitting in a very narrow airline seat, going somewhere. She has been writing seriously since 2010 and her short stories have been published in various anthologies.
Follow Julie-Ann on Twitter or via her Facebook author page: she also has an excellent website.