Set in a closed community, Blackbrooke residents share their town with the Crits: creatures that have free rein of the streets at night, while the humans are shut up tight in their houses. Liberty Connor is a good student, a law-abider, but she's about to start unraveling secrets that will challenge everything she thinks knows about her home. And bring her face to face with a few stinkin' Crits on the way...
Q: Hi Emma. Blackbrooke is such a great read. When did you actually start writing?
A: Thank you! I’ve always written, since I was really young. I used to be into Point Horror books, so from probably about the age of ten I’ve been trying to scare people with horror books! Then I took a break during university and started again when I was about 24.
I wrote a women’s fiction book that was based on my Dad’s life when he was in a band in the 70s - it was absolutely appalling, the worst thing that’s been written in the history of the world! Then I took a step back and read it again, and even though I knew it was appalling I started writing the follow up. Just after I started writing that, I started writing Blackbrooke. I just needed a break from it, I seemed to be obsessed with this silly story. So Blackbrooke was a bit of a side thing and I thought it would be one book, just a stand-alone, but when I started writing it I thought ‘No, this is a trilogy’.
A: I was watching Twilight for about the sixtieth time thinking I really want to do something that’s different from this, that’s so trendy at the moment and I want to try and make something that’s a little bit more scary, where the people are the people and the monsters are the monsters-there’s no crossover, there’s no super powers, just people versus the bad guys. It was out of boredom and frustration with what was trendy at the time.
In terms of the Crits, I thought 'make your own monsters'! I used the things that I find quite grotesque for inspiration. Appearance-wise, I hate vultures and I tried to channel vultures a bit with the long necks. Things that you couldn’t ever humanise-I didn’t want anyone to be like ‘what a shame, bless the Crits!’ I just wanted them to be grim, and for there to be no chance of siding with them
Q: Have you always been into horror?
A: Definitely. I’m 28 so when I was young it was Goosebumps and Point Horror. Harry Potter passed me by and then Twilight came out and brought supernatural back-but I got fed up with reading books about something supernatural, that someone was going to fall in love with, and I started getting a bit nostalgic for the old horror that was actually horror and the things that were horrible were actually the bad guys-no-one’s falling in love with them!
Q: Liberty's such a strong character-how conscious of that were you while writing?
I’d already written this women’s fiction book that was hinged on this romance and although there is romance in Blackbrooke, it’s not what forms Liberty’s personality and as the story progresses this gets more pronounced. There will always be that romantic thread running through it, but it is more about friendship than anything-I didn't want it to be all about love, but to create a girl who doesn't necessarily need it. By the second book, she doesn't want it, if anything it’s hindering her survival really, and I’m hoping it translates that way.
Q: How do you decide who gets to live and who comes to a sticky end?
I only know when I’m going along who’s going to get the chop. I think Stephen King quotes (or quotes somebody else) ‘kill your darlings’, and he’s right. You have to-the closer you are to the characters, the more the chance of ruining it. You can get a bit too close, but it’s difficult!
Q: What can readers expect from Blackbrooke II: The Guardian?
A: It hinges a lot on trust. At the end of the first book, you realise that some of the humans in the town are almost as bad as the Crits, and the second book takes that step further with the Institute. You meet some new characters that you’re not sure can be trusted and Liberty finds herself fighting against people more than Crits, although they are still there as a permanent threat.
It was a lot more difficult to write the second one I found, because Liberty’s alone a lot-she doesn't have the scooby gang around her any more, that’s completely disbanded. I found myself feeling sorry for her, thinking ‘God, how much more can one girl take?’ I know for a fact that I wouldn't have been that strong when I was seventeen!
It also turns on its head again halfway through, and Liberty finds herself back where she started, struggling with her own mind, and the thoughts she has. She doesn't have the nicest time in The Guardian-it’s probably the bleakest book.
Q: And last, but not least, I have to ask...team Cassius or team Gabriel?
A: This is really difficult, because even though I think he behaved like a bit of a wimp, I do feel very sorry for Gabriel. He could have done something while he was in the Institute, and Liberty calls him a coward about twenty times in the second book, poor boy! But I do feel for him because his last night in Blackbrooke was him and Liberty planning their future, and the next time he sees her she’s claiming she’s in love with someone else, she’s angry, she’s been through all of this trauma and it’s such a 180, I can’t imagine how that must feel. But Cassius clinches it for me, just because he’s the first character I came up with and everything was born around him. He’s by far the most important, and probably interesting, character. He’s been through so much, but he’s so devoted to Liberty, you can’t not love that! I think if I had to choose, and wear a T-shirt, it would be team Cassius.