A voracious reader, Ali always had the ability to use language and tell stories. She worked as a children’s mental health nurse for 10 years – in Scotland and Australia, before moving to London at 33.
“I was burnt out and my creativity was knocking loudly. I’d always had voices in my head, but they were getting louder and darker.”
Ali took a writing course at the Faber Academy.
“I’d never written. Everyone else had manuscripts in front of them. I felt inadequate, and didn’t understand what they were talking about. But in the three month break I worked on an idea to pitch to agents at the end of the course. Ten wanted to see the whole thing – but it didn’t exist. I’d only written the 2,000 word pitch.”
Working a 65 hour week as a nanny, Ali wrote her first draft at night.
“I heard Milly’s voice and grew the story around her.”
Completing 55,000 words , she sent it to 4 agents. Juliet Mushens, replying in minutes, signed her, and a deal followed, plus sales to 18 countries. Then Ali had to double the draft.
“I went to Australia, and wrote with complete abandon.”
Who is Ali Land?
Date of birth: 1980, in Swindon. Moved to Scotland at 5.
Education: Dollar Academy, as a boarder; Edinburgh University, Mental Health Nursing.
Family: Dad a pilot, Mum a nurse, both in the Military. Older sister.
The Day Job: Fulltime writer.
Favourite Writers: Shirley Jackson; Vladimir Nabokov; Thomas Harris.
Second Novel: “It’s on a similar theme. I’m 50,000 words in.”
Top Tip: “Read your work out loud.”
The Debut: Good Me, Bad Me. Michael Joseph: €18.19 Kindle: €7.29
Milly’s foster family sounds ideal; the perfect place for the child of a serial killer to make a fresh start. But as she prepares to face her mother in court, she ponders her past. Can you inherit badness?
“The idea was based on a conversation I had with a 15 year old whose mother had harmed young children. She was convinced that she was, also, going to be bad. That haunted me for years.”
The Verdict: Terrifyingly good. The darkness of Liz Nugent mixed with the teen angst of Louise O’Neill.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 11th February, 2017
© Sue Leonard 2017