One hot summer's day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won't give up hope that her daughter is still alive. How can she? Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago. But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what's been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.
Although I enjoyed writing, I never thought I’d write a book or anything like that. My idea of utilising words for a living had all but ended when I gave up hope of being a journalist and got the ‘safe’ job at the bank my mum always wanted me to get.
But listening to a radio interview one sunny midweek afternoon as I drove along the A43 changed my attitude somewhat. On the talk show, GP Taylor was talking about his life changing decision to begin writing at the age of forty. I was thirty-nine and three quarter years old and my head had been turned.
The interview wouldn’t leave my brain. Was I capable of such a bold move? I liked writing a lot, but a book? I wasn’t sure I had the time, energy or competence but the more I dismissed it, the more I felt challenged and compelled to at least try.
A few months later, during another car journey, another bit of radio (this times a news bulletin) caught my attention and my idea for Child Taken was in place. I knew by the end of the journey what I wanted to do – from first page to last – and how I’d do it. It just needed to be written.
I set out with only three main objectives. To have short chapters as I’d read a book like that and loved it, to make the story as positive as possible and to not resort to killing characters for no reason. Then I had to work out how to get my idea and objectives into something that people might want to actually read.
In nearly every other part of my life, I am what was once described to me as a ‘big chunker’; quite happy with very high level of detail and not one for having to know precise information. The worst person imaginable when it comes to proof reading, in other words.
But with writing, it turned out that I was the polar opposite.
I was lucky that I knew the whole story in my head but I couldn’t do anything else until I’d done a chapter by chapter break down of how I’d tell it. Then I began to build up each chapter, from a simple one liner into a thousand words and carried on until I’d got a first draft of Child Taken just over nine months later.
After that, I did a second draft; then a third and a fourth. Each time I made sweeping improvements although the story itself didn’t change at all. However, the way I told it certainly did. I also sought advice and feedback from a variety of sources. I was like a rabbit in the headlights in this new world but I talked to people who knew it well and more importantly, knew what readers and publishers wanted.
More drafts, each time less dramatic, followed plus a cull when I got rid of a couple of thousand words that I liked but the story didn’t need. In the end, by drafts ten and eleven, I was changing the odd word or sentence here and there; fine tuning and listening to the publishers and their appointed experts wherever I could and acting on it.
I was a naïve, idealistic novice to begin with and in many ways, I still am. I’ve had to learn on the job, pick up any advice and tips whilst learning from mistakes. I’ve been lucky to because I surrounded myself with the right people and as I’ve always maintained, what I’ve actually done is written a – fingers crossed - very good Word document.
It is my friends at Red Door Publishing that have turned it into a book.
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About the Author
Darren Young was born and grew up (sort of) in the West Midlands but now lives in Nottingham with his wife and their two children. His background is in financial services and in particular, customer service, where he has a master’s degree and has been a consultant on the subject, helping organisations improve their customers’ experience, since 2004. He began writing in 2014 after hearing a radio interview. Child Taken is his debut novel and he’s currently working on his next book. Away from writing, he enjoys a game (good or bad) of tennis and any decent film although he has also been known to disappear without trace for a few days at a time with a TV box set. Find out more at Darren's website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @darrenyoungbook.