In case you missed it on the night, here is my speech. Feel free to applaud at the end!
I love telling people that I am a writer. It is something interesting to say to people at dinner parties and I've been doing it for years. But, until last November, I had only ever written short stories and so I always felt like I was cheating.
Writing short stories is like running on a treadmill. It keeps you in shape but if you want to win a medal then you have to run a marathon.
Well, The Sheriff is my marathon. And, best of all, now I am more than a writer. Now, I can tell people I am a novelist and that sounds way cooler.
I wrote The Sheriff as part of NaNoWriMo, which is like Movember, only instead of growing a moustache during the month of November, you write 50,000-word novel instead. It was an intense way to write but helped me keep my foot on the pedal and The Sheriff is the result.
The Sheriff is a fantasy novella around 54,000 words. It would appeal to all fantasy readers and is suitable for young readers too because I left out the swearwords. One of my reviews has compared me to Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint which was very flattering but I would also recommend The Sheriff to anyone who enjoyed His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which are my favourite books of all time and influence all of the writing I have ever done.
So, what is The Sheriff about? As with any fantasy novel, you firstly have to establish the world. I will therefore read the prologue so you can understand the backdrop for the story...
* * *
In the Beginning, there was the Clown and He was sad.
The world had moved on. The human race had multiplied, expanded, conquered and taken ownership over the world. They were a non-magical race but they had the numbers, the determination and the fear to purge the world of magic. Witches were burned and Dragons were slain. The world moved on and magic was left behind.
The Clown said NO MORE and summoned those with magic to hear Him.
The Twelve Magical Races heeded the call: the Dragons, the Witches, the Sorcerers, the Fairies, the Featherfolk, the Nightmares, the Nymphs, the Skinchangers, the Ghosts, the Mome Raths, the Elementals and those few humans born with the Gift.
The Clown promised them a new world above the Clouds. They were all welcome but there were Two Rules.
ONE: they were never allowed to go back to the world they knew. Not for vengeance, not for nostalgia, not for anything.
TWO: they must put their differences aside and live in everlasting peace above the Clouds.
Two Rules. That was all.
The Twelve Magical Races accepted these terms so the Clown rolled up His sleeves and clapped His hands. The Clouds opened and their new world beckoned.
Walking together, side by side, the Twelve Magical Races – so unlike one another but united by their magic – followed the Clown into the sky.
The magic moved on and the world was left behind.
* * *
...so that is the setting. A world on top of the clouds called Nephos. The Sheriff is set 300 years later. The world of magical races is still on top of the clouds and the races are policed by figures called Sheriffs who roam the clouds and make sure everyone is placing nicely with each other.
This novel focusses on one Sheriff, Denebola, who is a walking armoured lion. I imagine him having the head of Aslan, the body of Jaime Lannister and the voice of Laurence Fishburne. He is asked by a brave young boy called Toby to help rid his village of a winged demon. The demon has tormented the people of Angel's Keep every night for the past week so Denebola vows to capture the creature. However, Denebola discovers that the demon is not the only shadow cast over Toby's village.
I enjoy twists and The Sheriff has plenty of surprises throughout. I also try and make my novels as enjoyable as possible so there is humour and action scenes and a little bit of heartbreak as well.
The Sheriff is one tiny part of the world which I am creating. It focuses on one Sheriff, one cloud and takes place within 48 hours. It allowed me to dip my toe into the fantasy world before fully exploring Nephos in future novels. This is certainly part of a planned series, which is why I have optimistically put a number 1 on the spine, and I already have another five adventures mapped out, focussing on different Sheriffs and other parts of Nephos and its magical population.
Thank you for listening and I look forward to talking to you later.