Book Review: The Troll by Nicola Monaghan

Modern day fairy tales are often full of tired clichés and annoying attempts at 21st century twists, but Nicola Monaghan’s The Troll is a beautiful exception. It tells the chilling tale of three old school friends who become the target of an internet troll, who threatens to bring to light events from their dark (and to us, unknown) pasts. Although most internet trolls stay hidden firmly behind their screens, this story speculates on what would happen if one were to enter reality.

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The story is split into three novellas, each an exciting story of its own. Each starts and ends with a blog post that sounds like a classic fairy tale, yet enriched with the tone of a spiteful villain. I love this twist, where the tale is told from the point of view of the villain of the story, and it makes me think of The Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The blog is a great way to move the story along in general, and is used at many points during the story to great effect.

One day, they learned how to get to Fairyland. Back then, this trip was much cheaper and *so* much easier. They needed only to find the magic beans, or the small squares of enchanted paper, to take them far, far away.

This section from one of the blog posts is also a great example of how the writer manages to describe drugs from the perspective of a user. It’s an unusual way of describing them, but works really well in the context of the narrator.

As far as imagery goes, this story is full of it. In every good book there’s always at least one image that sticks in your head, and this one is no exception. For me, it’s the image of a dead rabbit strewn across one of the character’s front gardens.

…a rabbit whose head had been dragged around like a pen to make a message…she picked up the animal’s body parts and entrails, heaving as she went. She put it all into the bin bag. She was pretty sure it wasn’t recyclable, and had no idea if it was legal to put dead rabbits in your rubbish bin.

This is my favourite scene in the story because it’s so well written and the imagery is amazing. I love how the writer has paired such a disturbing image with humour without going over the top. It’s the narrator’s internal monologue that makes this such an amusing scene. Without hearing her thoughts, we’d undoubtedly just find it horrifying. This addition of light humour adds to the tension of the piece and keeps it gripping.

There are two narrator’s in the story; Kelly and Louisa. Kelly is my favourite narrator. She’s such a likeable character, with her Bridget Jones-esque life and ‘fuck it’ attitude. I found myself loving her and sympathising with her troubles; it was almost like she was my own friend. Her voice is strong and funny, and even when she’s talking about serious things there’s always the edge of humour there.

Lousia, however, is a character I could do without. Don’t get me wrong, she’s written so, so well and exists off the page just as much as Kelly does, but I just straight out do not like her. I found her to be annoying and irritating, constantly with her head in the clouds and not knowing what she wants. And then when she knows what she wants, she never goes for it. She acts innocent throughout the story but she isn’t, and deep down I’m sure she knows that. The writing of Louisa though is fantastic. Her insecurities are shown very subtly through her narration, and Jack (her husband) humanises her a lot.

Jack himself is a very interesting character, especially when compared with his brother, Adam. Adam, Kelly and Louisa are the three being terrorised by the troll, and so have been good friends since they were very young. Jack is very different to them though. He’s sensible and reliable, which contrasts with Adam and Louisa’s uncontrolled chaos of lives. This contrast makes him an interesting character as it helps to highlight how unpredictable Adam, and helps me to understand why Louisa is sometimes wanting more from him.

My only issue is with the end of the story. I can’t really say much without ruining it, but what I can say is that I wish Kerry and Louisa’s lives had both changed to the same extent. I mean, I’m happy with the ending and it works, but it’s a little too perfect in parts for me. As horrible as it sounds, I wanted it to be a little less happy in some ways so it balanced more between them (Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, but hopefully when you read it yourself you’ll get what I mean!).

Even if you find yourself not liking this story (which I highly doubt), you’ve got to admire it’s style. Not only is it a fairy tale with a troll entirely based in the world of social media, it even reads like social media. When it’s Kelly’s turn to narrate we see ‘@kelly’, and for Louisa ‘@louisa’. And in Kelly’s parts, the hashtags are hilarious. Kelly is a local celebrity, a radio DJ, so is always on social media. So of course naturally her narration also reads like it’s come straight from Twitter. ‘#shit’. I love how in character they are too, for example ‘The #SinsOfTheMother and all that’, ‘#FiftyShadesOfSomething’ and ‘The last thing she needed was another #nutter in her life’. They read so naturally and well, it strengthens Kerry’s character and makes her even more loveable.

It’s also worth mentioning, from a literary point of view, the metaphors and descriptions in the story. There’s one part where Louisa is reminiscing about her past, but rather than the usual smells or sounds taking her back and being the prominent image it’s colour.

Orange inlaid with purple on wallpaper in her aunt’s living room. Green with a lighter green on a pair of curtains at their gran’s house. Puke green.

I love how this is a different way of remembering and describing the past in a story, without making it boring and forced.

Kelly’s metaphors are what really get me going though. My favourite being ‘it felt like the circus had come to town…the clowns were doing somersaults and the lions were roaring’, used to describe a hangover. Not only does it sum up the general idea we get of Kelly in the book, but it also creates quite an unusual and interesting image.

The story itself is full of suspense, and like good sex it builds us up numerous times and backs away just as we get close to reaching the climax. At some points it even gets frustrating. It builds to a point where we finally feel like we’re going to find out about what happened that summer, and then the chapter abruptly ends and we’re back to drunk Kelly, or Louisa’s mundane love life. ‘#fucksake’.

The book itself, as an object (and of course by object I mean e-object), is professional and looks like it could be available in bookstores. The cover designs are great and the typesetting on the inside is very professional. It looks amazing and just shows how much of an impact indie publishing is making in the publishing world. I love it.

 

Nicola Monaghan is an indie writer to look out for. Her previous work (The Killing Jar, Starfishing) is only the beginning of her career, and each piece gets better (and a little darker) than the last. She’s a great writer, with gritty, bone-chilling stories that strike at the heart of real issues like drugs, cyber-bullying and relationship problems. It’s rare that I give a 100% positive review (seriously, take a look at my others here), but this story truly deserves it. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Ms Monaghan’s next work.

Indie Publishing: An Introduction

Publishing trends are constantly changing, and with more aspiring writers wanting to get their work out there publishing companies aren’t providing the platform many need. Enter indie publishing, self-publishing’s cool, less stigmatised sister, and thank fuck for it.

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Remember the days when you could see people cringe when you told them about the great self-published book you’d read? The assumption was that people only self-published because publishing houses wouldn’t accept their manuscripts. These were the rejects, the nerds in the school playground, and no one ever respected them despite their strengths. They were nerds because they were never accepted onto the netball team no matter how hard they tried, because they never quite had the right look or said the right things. Well, nerds are back and with them a cool, refreshing rebellion that’s lead to the beauty that is indie publishing.

Let’s break it down for you here, back to the basics. I want to make sure you 100% get the definitions here. Traditional publishing means a novel has been printed through a publishing house, like Penguin. Indie publishing literally is what it says; independent publishing. These books have been published without the help of publishing houses but by the writers themselves.

Nowadays, writers use the term ‘indie’ to set them apart for those who have self-published, and to show that they are serious about their writing and that they are worth the read. Because no matter what happens, you’ll always have those self-published books that have been put online without any thought going into the editing, typesetting or cover art.

Indie writers are not the rejects of the publishing houses. They’ve chosen to publish their own work for their own reasons, whether that’s to keep 100% control of their manuscript or to avoid making big changes that publishing houses might request.

This choice that writers are now actively making means that the quality of some of the writing out there is top bloody notch. Of course, you’ve got to be able to find it, but when you do you’ll have so many more books to read. Just take a look at the success stories, Fifty Shades probably being the most famous. Of course, just because a publishing company offers you a deal after you’re published independently doesn’t mean you have to take it; being an indie author comes with a great sense of freedom and control that you might not want to give up.

Deciding which publishing route to go down is hard, but in the end it depends on what you want and what your main goal is. If you want complete control of what your book looks like and reads like then indie publishing is probably the best route for you. And places like Amazon make it relatively easy to produce good looking books now so there’s help there for you. However, if your main goal is to see your book on the shelf in Waterstones I’d advise traditional publishing. You’ll have less control over the actual book, but with the contacts publishing companies have they’ll have more of a chance when it comes to getting your book on the shelf. Do bear in mind though that with the rising popularity of Kindles and eReaders, having a book in Waterstones doesn’t mean as much anymore (although I’ll admit, it’s still pretty damn cool).

So if you want to be an indie author there are a lot of things you need to consider. For a start, there’s the initial costs that will need to come out of your own pocket. You’ll need a book cover, a damn good one too if you want to attract readers. For this, unless you’re a cracking cover artist yourself, you’re going to have to hire a designer. Similarly, with the label of indie writer comes an expectation for the best, meaning your readers will be less accepting of spelling mistakes, plot holes and typos. This means you’ll need to pay for a proofreader/ copyeditor to make sure your novel is spot on. There’s also the possibility that you might need to pay for a typesetter, although many publishing programmes make it easy for you to do this yourself.

 

Now is the best time to be an indie author, with eBooks rising in popularity and ease of access at its best. There are plenty of forums, writing groups and workshops you can go to that will give great advice on how to start out. This support will really help you develop as an indie writer, and I think you’ll probably find that you’re just as happy with it as you would be if you were published by a big publishing house.

 

What are your experiences with being an indie author? Do you think it’s better or worse than traditional publishing? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Writing Prompt Tuesday

Here’s a writing prompt for today. Have lots of fun it! It’s an exercise to make you feel six years old again, and you’ll probably enjoy picturing how a young child would go about your job.

Happy writing!

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Social Media: A Writer’s Guide

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It is about you, but there’s other stuff too

Yes, your writers do want to know about what you’re writing and how everything is going, but they also want to know that your whole life isn’t just, well, you. Repost articles that you find interesting, but keep them relevant to what you’re doing. For example, if you’re a children’s writer you could repost an article about a current children’s book that successfully relates to transgender youths. This not only shows that you are up to date with others in your field, but also gives you the opportunity to open up a discussion with your followers.

Pictures, pictures, pictures!

Photos liven up your timeline and add variety to the text you’re writing. You should try to put an image with as many posts as possible. These don’t have to be perfect photographs, they could just be small photos of your writing space or what you’re eating/drinking, anything to break your timeline up. It also helps you appear as an actual person that your readers can relate to personally, rather than a writer who hires someone else to talk to their fans for them.

Be funny

I’m not talking Stephen Fry hilarious, but a little humour will get you a long way. People on social media tend to like and share little things that make them laugh or smile. You don’t have to make these things up yourself; there are plenty of photos and gifs out there that will brighten up your followers’ days, all you have to do is share them and add a little comment of your own. As a writer, you’ll probably get a great response to writing related jokes, about popular literature, punctuation errors and grammar Nazis.

Don’t go off topic

You’re a writer, so everything you write needs to be about writing or a topic you discuss in your books. Why go on a political rant about David Cameron when it is completely irrelevant to your novel and genre? Your followers don’t necessarily want to hear your rants, especially when they hold no connection to your writing. However, if this is something your audience would be interested in, or if it’s a topic you have written about in your novel, then feel free talk about it. Make it your job to find out what your followers want to hear and then write about that if it’s something you’re interested in too.

Sharing is caring

If you’ve just written a line that you’re really proud of, share it. See what people think. This line can be from a book you’ve already published or from your current WIP, just give them a little something to remind them why they follow you. It might also be good to share achievements from your followers too. If someone has commented on a post of yours to say congrats and then they mention their latest writing achievement, share it. Congratulate them on your page. Your online community will grow from this positivity, and they’ll appreciate you showing that you care.

Writers Inkouragement

There’s a great blog out there for writers that gives out tips and posts up to date creative jobs on a regular basis. It’s definitely worth checking out if you have a spare moment! This week I’ve written a guest post for it on how to get published, you can take a look here:

https://writersinkouragement.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/how-to-get-published-advice-from-an-editor/

If you have any questions about getting published or working with an editor, drop us an email at info@hemsleyseditorial.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help you out.

 

Writing Prompt Tuesday

Here’s a writing prompt for today. Think of your favourite place, whether it’s a holiday destination or your bedroom, and describe it using all of your senses. As writers we often miss out smell and touch, so make sure to include them here.
Happy writing!

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