A Leap on the Dark Side

Zoë Sharp

Since Christmas I’ve been editing a new book that’s a real departure for me. It’s a supernatural thriller rather than straightforward crime, although it starts with the brutal murder of a young girl and charts the effect this has on her parents and those caught up in the events that follow.

If asked to sum it up in a sentence, I would say it’s about a supernatural assassin who you summon with grief but pay with your soul.

A far cry from the close-protection world of my series character, Charlie Fox.

It’s not that I’m intending to move away from the series, far from it. DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten is just out and I’m planning the next instalment. Plus I keep receiving wonderful emails and comments on Facebook and Twitter from people who have either been reading the books from the start, or have only recently stumbled into Charlie’s world and are loving it. I don’t say this in any way to brag, but to express my own humbled delight that so many people actually seem to like what I do. Any writer will tell you this can be a constant source of amazement.

Without readers we are merely talking nonsense in an empty room.

But the new book is substantially different and that worries me just a little. It deals with the supernatural, for a start, with Buddhist philosophy and Catholic doctrine thrown in. It has an ensemble cast—a misfit group who band together to fight against an ancient evil, each for reasons of their own. As mentioned, it starts with murder, and there’s a strong theme of retribution and its consequences. But apart from the fact that it features a strong female protagonist, one who is prepared to make any sacrifice to do what she believes is right, it’s a very different story from anything I’ve written so far.

I’m nearly done with the edits. I’ve made substantial changes from the first draft, which is another departure for me. Normally I would self-edit as I go along and not make sweeping alterations after that. But this time I think—well, I hope, anyway—that it’s lifted the whole of the narrative up a level. I could be right, or hopelessly misguided. At this stage it’s impossible to make any kind of value judgement.

One thing’s for sure, though. For me it’s a total leap in the dark.

So, ’Rati. How willing are you to read something totally different from an author you’ve previously enjoyed, even if it’s maybe not a genre you’ve tried before?

What was the last leap of faith you made? And how did it work out for you?

This week’s Word of the Week is hagiography, which used to mean the biography of saints or venerated persons, but has now come to mean any biography which over-idealises or idolises its subject.

37 thoughts on “A Leap on the Dark Side

  1. Richard Maguire

    Hi Zoe. The new book sounds really great. I love the idea of a favourite author trying something new, and I'm looking forward to reading it. The very best of luck.

  2. David Corbett

    I'm with Richard. If I like the author, I'm willing to try anything she puts her mind and heart to. And I love the idea of a bargain with the devil for the sake of revenge. That's a setup anyone who has grieved hard for someone taken away senselessly — or who has felt anything similar — will understand. I also admire you for changing your process — I wonder how that felt mid-stream. Like an adventure, a mistake, a task?

    As for leaps in the dark, I tired one and fell flat on my face. So I picked myself up and decided to return to wnat I do well, with a commitment to do it even better.

    We shall see…

    Great post. Best of luck with the ooga booga killer thriller. 🙂

  3. Sue Millard

    "…a strong theme of retribution … features a strong female protagonist…" Very like your crime novels, then! I think you've hit on the reason your readers will follow you with this one, Zoe. Good luck with it.

  4. John Hancock

    I say "don't be constrained by genre". If you have a story to tell, tell it, and people will find a way to it. Remind yourself that it's not such a leap when you already are successful with Charlie. Your fans are fans because of HOW YOU WRITE. The ability to write transcends genre.

    Good luck with it, and I can't wait to read it, Zoë

  5. Jake Nantz

    I think most of us would read anything you wrote, even a list of phone numbers. That said, it sounds like you still have a basis in the good-vs-evil that often makes up the crime genre, so it should be close enough at the core that readers will still dive in and enjoy it. That's my guess, anyway. I hope so, because I've got a VERY different series in my head if this next WIP doesn't catch anywhere, and anyone who's read my short stories will have no idea where this new one came from….

  6. Graham Smith

    I'd give it a whirl because it has your name on the cover but I don't like to be taken too far into supernatural territory (crime is far safer) so you'd have to really blow my socks off to get me to read more than one supernatural thriller. However, seeing as it's you I would give it a try as you have continually left me barefoot.

    Hope this helps you rather than feeding your worry demons. (see I can do supernatural too)

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I can attest that EVERYONE who loves Zoë's books will love CARNIFEX – it's got the same strong throughline of a powerful female protagonist with a haunted past going up against forces of evil, and a wonderful cast of supporting characters.

    I know there are always those readers who won't tolerate any hint of supernatural, but to me the supernatural action in the book is not very far removed from reality.

    As for a leap of faith, my decision to go straight to e publishing with HUNTRESS MOON was my latest huge leap. Terrifying, but with huge rewards!

  8. Sarah W

    From the sound of it, Carnifax isn't so much of a departure from your core themes, Zoë. And genre-swapping doesn't bother me at all. Just the opposite! Except in the in case of un-ironically meant hagiographies, because there has to be a line.

    Just tell me I won't be waiting two extra months after it's initial release as punishment for living in the wrong country . . .

    I think its a leap of faith every time I presume to write down the stories in my head.

  9. Lesley

    I'll usually give a new book of a different genre a whirl. I don't believe an author I like will suddenly become "bad" because the genre's different. It may turn out not to be my cup of tea but I'll always give it a try with an open mind 🙂 I'm curious, is this going to be a standalone or, if it's successful, something you might alternate with Charlie's series?

  10. Lil Gluckstern

    Since I love the Charlie Fox books, and I think I resonate to your writing, I will try your book. The subject matter and philosophy sound very interesting.

  11. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Richard
    Thank you. I just hope the finished lives up to the idea. Always a worry when it’s something you’ve been wanting to write for ages. It’s always far better before you begin!

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi David
    There are times when this has felt like all three—an adventure, a mistake and a task, although I suppose the latter least. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting this one out of my system at last. Whether other people enjoy reading it as much, though, is another matter …

    And I am planning to return to crime in general—erm the writing of it, that is—and my Charlie Fox series in particular. I hope to do so with a similar re-commitment to quality.

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Sue
    Thank you. I hope people find enough similarities with the books to enjoy both, too. I’m interested in the theme of justice, however you perceive it, and this does tend to crop up in my scribblings.

  14. Zoë Sharp

    Hi John
    Well, this one is certainly breaking new ground for me as far as genre is concerned, but thank you for the kind words. Most of the time I feel I just see things happening and report what I see in a very straightforward way that can, on a downer day, seem very ordinary. I think this must be a familiar emotion to all writers, though 🙂

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Jake
    Well, the dialling code for the UK is +44 … Ah, I see what you mean.

    I’m hoping that as long as it’s the story I’m concentrating on, rather than the setting, I may be OK. It’s all about the characters and the conflict brought about by their circumstances rather than getting tied up in the mythology.

    It’s a nice theory, anyway …

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Graham
    That’s a nice recommendation … I think 🙂 And I hope your feet aren’t getting too cold in all this nippy weather! There’s quite an element of crime in this, but ultimately, I would almost say it’s a love story …

  17. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alex
    Thank you so much for the kind words. And I hope, with the current rewrites, I’m improving and strengthening the story quite a bit from the first draft you were generous enough to test-read for me.

    HUNTRESS MOON is a wonderful, gripping read, by the way, which I have no hesitation in recommending to anyone!

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Sarah
    Sorry for the discrepancies of publishing schedules, but that really is something over which I have very little control … IF this goes the conventional publishing route. That is still very much undecided at the moment …

    And every writer has to make that same leap of faith. I sometimes think the scariest sight is a blank page in a doc titled ‘Chapter One’.

  19. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Lesley
    Hmm, the way this story wraps up I’m not sure it would lend itself to becoming a series, but I do have another idea for a story that has similar … overtones, shall we say? So if it goes down well I could certainly follow it up with something along the same lines.

    And I am intending to alternate the Charlie Fox books with others, either standalones or a new series. One of my other projects for this year is a trilogy.

    Note to self: Must Write Harder …

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Lil
    It’s weird, because researching the philosophy just arrived at the right time and resonated in all kinds of ways with me, which made me even more drawn to writing this story.

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Lisa
    This has given me renewed enthusiasm to get the last of the edits completed and get the thing out there.

    Of course, that’s when things get REALLY scary for a writer …

  22. PD Martin

    I think it the depends on the genre and what the readership enjoys. I know a lot of people who like crime AND supernatural (or perhaps more the urban fantasy, vamipre route) so I'm guessing for those fans, Zoe Sharp would then be a one-stop shop 🙂

    And I think avid followers will follow you anywhere! Also, don't forget you'll also get new readers – readers who haven't found you from crime. So even if not all your crime readers want to 'go there' you'll pick up new readers who read exclusively supernatural. Or maybe you'll be able to bring them across to Charlie.

    Regardless, it's very exciting that you're almost done this new book. Congrats!

  23. Allison Davis

    I follow the author so a change doesn't matter — what everyone said above (LOVE the bare foot compliment). While I am not big on supernatural, i do from time to time get hooked on certain books, and since I have devoured all of the Charlie Fox books, I am sure this one will make a tasty reading meal.

  24. KDJames

    I'm going to assume this comment will eventually emerge from the dungeon and appear sometime next week, but I just want to say, "Me too, me too, me too." Even though I despise making "me too" type comments. Much more fun to disagree.

    But I'll also say, in general, "It depends." I suspect I'd attempt to read anything you write, Zoë, but I also don't think it's likely that you'd write something I couldn't stomach. If that makes sense. I'm fine with a bit of supernatural, but if you had decided to write pure gory bloody horror, I'd be hesitant. Or if you suddenly wrote an epic fantasy with a bunch of world-building and made-up words and unpronounceable names, I might buy it as a show of support . . . but then never read it.

    But as for what you've described here? Oh hell yes.

    Also, I expect that there WILL be more than one copy of the book, or I'm going to be fighting Meg Gardiner for it. And everyone else. Apparently.

  25. KDJames


    My comment posted. Immediately.

    Alright, guys. You know what this means. You all need to be on the lookout for a quartet of horsemen. Or locusts. Or something. They might be cleverly disguised in two feet of snow. Or as baby Clydesdales.

  26. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PD
    That might be a bit of a problem as this book has no vampires, no werewolves and no zombies in it. (And there are some people who’ve asked, “Well, what’s left?”)

    I’m at the scared stage as much as the excited stage at the moment. We’ll see how the fingernails survive!

  27. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Allison
    Yes, Graham does have a way with words, doesn’t he? I thought that was a lovely one, and hoogely flattering. Somebody also said they liked different styles of meals prepared by the same chef, which is also a nice analogy.

    I know I’ve read Robert B Parker’s westerns and even his baseball book, DOUBLE PLAY. Gives me something to aspire to!

  28. Zoë Sharp

    Hi KD
    LOL, I haven’t made up any words for this one, honest! Even the title, CARNIFEX is a word I discovered in the dictionary and had a note of for some time before I thought of a story to go with it. (Carnifex means executioner, with its roots in butchery, from ‘carne’ meaning meat, btw.)

    I would not say it’s particularly gory — certainly no more than anything I’m writing at the moment. At least, I don’t think so…

    And yes, there will be more than one copy. I’d hate anyone to have to fight with the delightful Meg Gardiner!

  29. John Hancock

    Zoë : you are a fantabulous writer, because you not only have attention to human understanding, you also know when to step out of the way and let the story roll through. Although all of us struggle with "am I sufficient" thoughts, myself included (or especially), I don't think YOU ever need worry about that. Besides, there aren't MANY writers for whom I will buy ALL their available books after just reading one. You are one of those writers. Now g'on be STUPENDOUS!

    oh, and name a character after me someday! haha.

  30. Wendy H

    Hi Zoe, I love the Charlie Fox books, and your writing style and voice, so will definitely be looking out for this one. I like to read different genres, though not what I would call true horror. Supernatural overtones sounds interesting though.
    I see from my copy of Die Easy that you have another book listed, The Blood Whisperer, but I can't find any more about it – is it due out soon? It said Winter 2012…
    And please, do keep on with the Charlie Fox series – she's such a well-rounded character, like a real person, that I have to keep re-reading the backlist to get a fix for my addiction.

  31. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Wendy

    Thank you. And well-spotted. As soon as I've finished the edits on CARNIFEX (which should be this weekend with a bit of luck and half a dozen policemen) getting THE BLOOD WHISPERER ready for publication is the next job …

    I've always liked to play with preconceptions, and I hope CARNIFEX does that. Supernatural yes, even a chiller, but not really horror, I don't think 🙂

    And yes, I'm definitely keeping on with Charlie Fox. Book #11 is at the planning stage as we speak!

  32. Zoë Sharp

    Hi John

    My apologies, your comment didn't post immediately so I've only just checked and found it. Thank you for your vote of confidence! Wow, no pressure there then.

    Actually, today (Sunday) should see the last of my edits. Hurrah! So then things get to the REALLY scary stage of waiting for feedback …

    Oh, and congrats on the short story on your website, btw http://dreamwoodtales.wordpress.com Hope it does big things for you!

  33. Judith

    I'll look out for this new book Zoe – just give me the word. And as I love words and do know hagiography but do you know hagioscope? This was an opening through the wall of a church that allowed worshippers to see the altar from parts of the church from which the altar was not visible.
    And some blatant self promotion here – I wrote about a small church that has an hagioscope on July 22 2011.

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