Following the tradition established by my first book, I thought I would compile a quick list of things you should know about Strange Ways, my upcoming novel. Have a read through and if it gives you the reading tingles, go ahead and pre-order it!
1. Strange Ways is a sequel
My first book The End of the Line came out on 8th July 2019, and with Strange Ways coming out on 22nd June 2020, that means I’ll have had two novels out in the space of a year! This story takes place two or three years after the first book. Suffice to say, things have moved on for the characters since then (those still alive at least). I’ve been told by some readers that you don’t need to read the first to enjoy the second (and that was what I was aiming for) but, if you don’t want to take that chance, go on and treat yourself and read The End of the Line first.
2. It will be available in ebook and as an audiobook
Like the first book, Strange Ways will be published worldwide in ebook by the wonderful people at Canelo, meaning it’ll be available across Amazon, Apple , Google and Kobo. It will be published worldwide in audiobook by the fabulous folks of Bolinda Audio a little later this year. I’ve had no word as yet on who will be reading it, but The End of the Line was read wonderfully by the brilliant Nneka Okoye.
3. I had research help from someone who has volunteered her time in a real women’s prison
I wanted to do the prison setting some justice to lend it authenticity, not wanting to fall back on the perpetuated tropes and cliches of prison life (which gets very mixed up in the media, especially if you’re writing about a British prison and most of what you know comes from American television). To do this, I reached out to fellow author Mim Skinner, who wrote the non-fiction Jail Birds, which chronicled some of her experiences volunteering in a women’s prison. She was happy to help and kindly looked over relevant scenes. I learned so many things from reading her book and from her helpful notes on my inaccuracies. Anything I got wrong in the finished book is entirely my fault, however, and left in for the DRAMAAAA!
You should all get her book, which is both eye-opening and wonderful.
4. I wanted the idea to be equally as high-concept as The End of the Line
After straining my brain for months on the idea for a sequel to The End of the Line, it finally hit me as my wife and I were walking along a canal in East London, on our way back from seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I’d wanted to come up with a premise that was equally as high-concept as The End of the Line, while opening the world a little and allowing me to put my characters through the wringer. And there it was staring at me in the face, if you write about magic criminals, then its only fair that at some point you have to place them in magical prison.
5. Strange Ways took 18 months to write
Many writers will tell you this: after having spent 10 years writing my first book, having to produce a second one, from idea to finished copy, in a fraction of that time was a bit of a shock! But I’ve always had quite a regular writing schedule and once the idea was in place, the words started to flow. Ideas were explored, characters were better defined, others cut, my wonderful editors (I had two, one left for a new job and a new one came on board) gave me their opinions and, together we polished it to a high shine. Then, bloody hell, look at that, I’d written another book!
6. I wanted to expand the story’s wider world
Many people had said after reading The End of the Line how they wished that they’d had more of an opportunity to see the world in which the book was set, where magic was real and where anyone could do it. Granted, setting most of a book in a sealed box in Siberia wasn’t the best vantage point to showcase it! But the story came first and the world filled in as I wrote it, so there you go, sometimes writing a book is about compromise.
But with a second book, a blank canvas, I had more scope to listen to some of the desires of my readers so a good part of Strange Ways is set in London. Readers will finally be able to see more about the city and the underground trade of magic that flows through it, leading to the powerful criminals who profit from its illegality.
7. There’s even more character drama
If you’ve read The End of the Line, you’ll see that quite a bit happens to the main character, Amanda Coleman. I wanted to pick up on the actions and consequences of the first book and run with them. James Bond might be able to shake off fighting for his life but not Amanda Coleman. Get ready for guilt, anger and a quest to reconnect with what she fought so hard to salvage in The End of the Line. it’s totally emotional.
8. Strange Ways has a great set-up (at least I think so)
As I’ve mentioned before, Strange Ways is set a few years after The End of the Line. We rejoin Amanda as she continues to deal with the traumatic death of her family (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, its in the blurb!) and the consequences of the decisions she made on the train in Siberia.
Thrown in prison for a heist gone wrong (or did she self-sabotage?), Amanda receives a mysterious package. Though she’s in prison under an assumed identity to protect her from those looking for her after TEOTL, someone out there knows who she really is and her connections to the demonic carnage that transpired in the previous book. To keep herself and her remaining daughter safe, she has to accept the blackmailer’s mission, get transferred to Coldwater, the notorious island prison for magic users, and assassinate one of the inmates.
But the problem with having screwed over half of the criminals in London? She might just be about to meet an old enemy who has plans of his own.
9. It’s for people who like some magic in their thrillers
If you’re a fan of fact-paced supernatural thrillers like Ben Aarnovitch’s Rivers of London series, the Felix Castors by Mike Carey, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City then this is for you!
10. You’ve likely seen the cover designer’s work before
The cover is once again designed by Tom Sanderson, who also designed the cover for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth!
11. It’s already out in the world and readers are loving it!
The book has already had some great reviews. The first from a fellow supernatural thriller author, Phil Williams (no relation, I swear!):
“Strange Ways is a great example of contemporary British fantasy; a gritty page-turner packed with creative twists on criminal magic.”
And readers have loved it too. Check out these two early reviews:
“Powerful character portraits… drive the reader through a rollercoaster of threat, suspense and engagingly weird stuff. Top notch and worth a read, an exuberant bit of escapism much-needed in these trying times.”
“[A] fast moving thriller that grips you from the start… outstanding characters… A hard hitting novel that is fast-paced. One of the best books I’ve read this year.”
So there you have it. If that tickles your fancy, please do consider getting Strange Ways in ebook or audiobook. And if you’d like the set, The End of the Line is already available in the same formats. You can even read some things to know about that book in my previous blog post 13 Things to Know About The End of the Line.