Welcome, Michelle Cook!

From Michelle’s #WIP…

(This is an extract from an early chapter. It’s 2041. The main character, Essie, is about to go on the run after mistakenly revealing her plot to build climate-saving technology without the knowledge of the authoritarian government who rule Essie’s England. She goes to see her friend and boss, Brian, before leaving town.)

The door opens, a bulky form silhouetted in the frame.

“Fuck’s sake, Essie. What the hell, now?” His spiky Afrikaans accent never sounded sweeter.

“Bri.” I bolt across the room, colliding with the back of an errant chair, and barrel into him. “They didn’t take you.”

“No thanks to you. You are literally killing me, girl.” His beard snags in my hair as he pulls back, eyes catching mine. He has a cut over one of them, and even in this dim light it’s obviously bruised. “You’ve been fucking about again.”

“No. Well… But—”

“Fuck your buts. I could be in a police cell right now. Or in the ground.”

For a moment I can’t breathe. “What did they do? What did they say to you?”

“Nothing intelligible. Nasty threats. Smashed the flat up. Looking for you, they said, but they weren’t really looking from what I could tell.” He collapses into a chair and peers up at me. “They took Kosta.”

My legs give way. I flop into the chair opposite him, gripping the table between us. “No. Why?”

“Solicitation. Some other made up shit.” He explores his damaged eye with shaky fingers. “I loved that boy.”

I squeeze his other hand. “They’ve got nothing on him, Bri. They’ll let him go tomorrow, I’m sure of it.”

Bri shakes his head. “He won’t be back. They hate poufs.” Bri’s lips twist around the slur, and his voice cracks. “I know how this goes. He’ll be dead tomorrow.”

It took Bri so many years to be honest about who he loves. Now he’s lost him because of me. I feel sick. “I’m so sorry.”

Bri shrugs. It’s a curious gesture; not dismissive. Maybe hopeless, but his jaw is stiff. “We need to get these bastards, Ess.”

Tell me about it. “Well, we made a start. But now I’ve gone and screwed it up.”

“Huh?”

Brian doesn’t know about the arrangement with Kerry, or our double crossing her. It all comes out in chaotic bits and bobs, but Brian pieces it together.

“Jesus. You’ve built a carbon capture prototype? Under her nose… That’s really smart.”

“Not so much.” I sigh. “They know. They granted me access to see Lawrence today, but—”

“You saw Lawrence? God, how’s he doing?”

“They wired him. And I told him everything. And now they know.”

“They wired him?”

A flash and a bang outside on the street fire my nerves. My head snaps round to the door as Bri grabs my hand. Two dark figures dash past the window, leaving behind a spewing fountain of light.

“Fireworks.” Bri lets out a breath. “Fucking fireworks. Thought it was another raid. You English confuse the hell out of me. After everything that’s happened, you’re still celebrating some guy hundreds of years ago trying to blow up a bunch of shitty politicians and getting caught.”

When I can speak again, I say, “We should probably get out of sight.”

Writer’s WIP Questionnaire – 2

  1. In the past two weeks, I have felt mostly happy about the progress of my WIP.

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Comment: Yeah, I’m going middle of the road on this one. It’s my second novel, a sequel to my dystopian thriller Tipping Point, so I know not to panic just yet. But then again, it’s a first draft so naturally horrible ha ha. When I was drafting Tipping Point, I was terribly naïve about it all and thought great writers found the right words immediately and instinctively. I am putting myself under less pressure this time to get it perfect straight off because now I know even authors I admire have to hone their work again and again. There will be a second draft, and a third… and a fourth…and…

  • In the past two weeks, I have mostly managed to balance my writing life with the rest of my life.

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Comment: Still scoring fairly high on this as my day job and young kids are always a factor. I work for the NHS, which is obviously demanding, right now more than ever. When writing the first novel, I was really quite horrible to live with for a while. This time round I’m trying to be a better. I’m about 15k words from finishing the first draft, though, and it’s all kicking off in there. So watch that ‘I’m a balanced human’ score slide in the coming weeks! Sorry in advance, fam.

  • In the past two weeks, I have made drastic changes to my WIP.

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Comment: Not yet, but I won’t rule it out. New ideas have occurred to me, but no real turnarounds so far. One particularly dramatic factor I’m adding into the dénouement will involve a whole lot of logistical head scratching and research. Neither are my particular strengths, but now it’s occurred to me I can’t leave it alone!

  • In the past two weeks, I have mostly suffered from ‘writer’s block’.

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Comment: Not block as such – I have the ideas. It’s just making them happen on a blank page. Pinning my wily brain down from creating incredible but vague ideas, tones and feelings into tangible detail is the struggle (see also previous answer!). Sometimes I literally have to lock myself in a room with no electronics but the laptop and haul it from my brain. Still, the next day I’ll be back on Twitter again, fooling myself I can knock out three thousand words with the telly on.

  • In the past two weeks, I have focussed on one project.

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Comment: Do you know, I have! Mainly because I am not that prolific when it comes to ideas. I know writers who have several manuscripts in progress on their laptops and struggle to avoid growing more ideas. It’s not that I don’t think of any – it’s more that I have a bad habit of rejecting ideas before they’ve had a chance to mature. I’m trying to be better at that. I do have an idea for my next project, a dark fantasy, which I think will help motivate me when this one is coming to a close. With my first novel, I got a publishing deal in the early days of the pandemic. With everything going on, it was several months before I could settle to write something new, and at one point I thought I would never be able to write another book. This time I’m determined to plough straight into the next project. Looking forward is the best way to convince myself I can do it again.

Thanks for taking part, Michelle! Now get yourself in that electronic-free room and do some hauling – I, for one, can’t wait for your second novel!

Michelle Cook

Find out more about Michelle…

Michelle Cook writes thrillers and dystopian fiction. She lives in Worcestershire, UK with her husband, their two young children, and a cat called Lyra Belacqua.

Her first joyful steps into creative writing were at the age of ten, when the teacher read out her short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. Still, Michelle never forgot the buzz of others enjoying her words.

More recently, she has had several flash pieces published, was long-listed for the Cambridge 2020 prize for flash fiction, and placed first in the February 2020 Writers’ Forum competition with her short story The Truth About Cherry House.

Tipping Point is her debut novel, with a sequel in progress right now.

Social media: @michellecookwriter | Linktree

Published by morwennablackwood

When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends. The story was about a frog. It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back. Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries. She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon. She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of. Morwenna is the author of bestselling noir psychological thrillers, The (D)Evolution of Us, and Glasshouse, published by #darkstroke. Her third novel, Underrated, is currently with her editor, and the fourth is in progress. When she is not writing, Morwenna works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea. She often thinks about that frog.

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