I began writing The Cruelty of Morning when I was 25 years old whilst staying with a friend in the Austrian Alps. I spent every morning of a sunny summer holiday sitting at an old wooden table in her garden enthusiastically tapping away on my portable Olivetti type-writer. But I was young. I had an exciting job as a Fleet Street showbusiness journalist, and neither the inclination nor application to finish a book. So I put my fledgling manuscript in a drawer and forgot all about it – until I came across it accidentally 20 years later, and remembered that always, at the back of my mind, I’d harboured the desire to write a novel.
Upon re-reading the manuscript, although parts made me cringe, it didn’t seem quite as bad as I’d feared. I sat down and started writing – early in the morning and late at night, intending to complete a few chapters and a proper treatment then send it off to an agent, the way you are told to. This proved impossible as I got in such a muddle that I was forced to finish the thing before showing it to anybody! Therefore it was all the more unlikely, and incredibly lucky, that I quite quickly landed both an agent and a publisher – Heinemann.
The book caused quite a stir. Unusual for a crime novel launched in 1995, Cruelty included a great deal of fairly explicit sex. Indeed, so much that I became the first first-time author in the history of Heinemann to be asked to tone it down!
There was also a lot of my own poetry. Re-reading Cruelty after another 20 years, in preparation for its e-book debut, I found myself far more embarrassed by the poetry than the sex. Indeed, now that I’m an old lady, with little memory of having written, let alone, heaven forbid, doing any of that sex stuff, I think I’m allowed to confess that I rather enjoyed reading it…
As for the book as an entirety, well, with twelve novels behind me, I could see flaws. The story is a powerful one though. The characters are strong. And, although I don’t like admitting it, there is a raw fearlessness about Cruelty which I have almost certainly lost over the years.
And I’m not just talking about the sex…
The Cruelty of Morning. Published on Kindle, Christmas Day 2015, by John Blake. £4.29