It centres on a teenager, Andrew Rowly, who believes he may have brought a demon to life through a mural he has painted. Andy's sanity is stretched to its limits as he is forced to confront his fears. Then he meets Nor, a girl who might be "the one." To be with her, to share their first kiss, he must overcome his demon, lest the demon overcomes him first.
Andy caught up with Nor as they rounded the corner to the central thoroughfare of Dickinson Road where a mile or so of closed flea markets adorned one of the main streets linking Stockport and Manchester. They stuttered to a stop, sucker-punched by the sprawling madness that unraveled before them.
It was a war zone.
A writhing mass of bodies clashed in the rain. Protestors, police, concert goers. Missiles soared across the sky, interrupting the downpour. Cars were overturned, shop windows were smashed and yellow flames licked the wooden frames and canvas canopies where market stalls had been set ablaze. The cries of those involved were drowned out by a dozen wailing alarms. More lightning cut across the sky and the street, packed with fighting men, lit up. Glib was in the center, the eye of this storm, the demon screaming and flailing its arms like a demented conductor. It had either caused the chaos or was feeding from it, but Andy knew the monster was stronger still, engorged by the violence. The demon saw him then. It started to move through the chaos in their direction. Andy drew in breath, instinctively wanted to flee. He didn’t. Something hardened inside him.
Glib hesitated. It was as if the demon sensed the change.
“Andy, we need to get out of here!” Nor said. This time she tugged at his arm.
Andy studied the fighting. This was where Glib lived, in madness and depravity. The demon would always stalk him, and even if it wasn’t today, it would one day come for Nor.
Andy looked at her and didn’t see terror, but saw beauty and strength, something worth fighting for.
He returned his stare to the waiting demon.
It was time to make a stand.
I started the book on my honeymoon of all places, back in February 2011. The publishing rights were acquired in August of the same year but a delay in publication resulted in the finished work being released in October 2012.
There were two stories I wanted to write, the first being a coming of age story, and the second something with an "is it really happening?" vibe. I came up with a way to merge the two main themes and scripted the first ten or so pages while at the Shangri La resort in Penang, Malaysia. By then I had a pretty good idea of where the story would go, although no outline.
Back in the UK, I used March, April and May to write, re-write and edit the next 90 pages or so before approaching then Lyrical Press editor, Nerine Dorman, with the pitch.
I set First Kiss, Last Breath in Stockport in 1996 (most, but not all, of my stories are set around the Greater Manchester area). The reason for setting it in the nineties was that I knew what it was like to be a teenager back in 1996! This was partly to give some authenticity to the writing (I'm not down with the kids these days) but also I felt that my readership is of a similar age to me so this setting could bring in some elements of nostalgia that would elevate it above a standard YA release for my readers.
Did I succeed? It's always hard to tell, and I'm still in the process of publicising the work but reviews to date have pointed to a gripping, fast paced story, which is obviously music to my ears.
I hit a few blogs on the release trail of First Kiss, Last Breath.
The first was a "heart on sleeve" reveal about why I write and how writing and the notion of writing developed throughout my life. It was called "She Mostly Cries at Night" and it featured on the blog of SL Schmitz.
The next was more fun. In the lead up to Halloween I posted about my favourite Halloween memory over at Brynna Curry's blog. It's pretty much about how my parents scared the living shit out of this cocky youngster.
On Sara Jayne Townsend's blog, I focussed specifically on First Kiss, Last Breath. As the novella is based around a teenager, I figured that music would play a part in Andy's relationships, and again for credibility, I chose artists and songs that I loved back in 1996 (and still do today).
Then there were the interviews. First Kiss, Last Breath came up in my discussion with Ryan Lawler at Fantasy Book Review.
The novella was also a hot topic in my "Seven Questions" with Jake Elliot.
Post blogging, Karina Fabian was the first to read the story after I touted her for an endorsement. Karina very kindly agreed to read the book but also very honestly told me she would not put her name to it if she did not like it.
Fortunately for me she said: "Fans of Stephen King are going to love First Kiss, Last Breath. You won't sleep until you know how it ends."
Further to this, I've had the following editorial reviews:
"A gruesome and fantastic read. Mather sucks in readers and keeps them guessing from one page to the next." Nocturnreads.com
"Aimed at the YA market I think it fills a niche perfectly." Darkissreads.com
"Reminiscent of Conrad Aitken's Silent Snow, Secret Snow. It's an enthralling story with mounting tension and plenty of suspense." www.tony-paul.com
"This is a great story, superbly written…brimming with gripping characters…and beautifully laid out scenes of hope and despair." Troubledscribe.blogspot.com
So if you feel motivated to read First Kiss, Last Breath, or even better, read then post a review, the links are below.
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Number of Pages: 101 pages