After working with teenagers for more than a decade, Carla Spradbery decided to start writing for and about them. Having had a lifelong obsession with dark literature, it only seemed natural to write stories that would thrill, scare and maybe make her readers think twice about reading alone in the dark, and she has done exactly that. One of The Guardian’s young reviewers describes her debut novel The 100 Society ‘This book was absolutely fantastic: quick, fast-paced and terrifyingly gruesome in parts, making it the perfect mix of mystery and horror’.
For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it’s an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker – the Reaper – he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.
As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.
With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever…
Carla Spredbery lives in Hampshire with her husband and two children – she’s still working with teenagers, although she admits she finds it harder and harder to understand why the music they like has to be quite so loud. Here she explains to writing.ie just how her debut novel The 100 Society came about:
Earlier this year, I wrote an article for a magazine about my publishing journey. I told the story of how, at the age of five or six, a teacher gave me an exercise book to write my own stories in. I had written about a battle between pirates and sailors, but it wasn’t until my parents found the exercise book in their loft almost thirty years later that I realised how dark it was; one of the sailors was stabbed in the back with a sword, then his body was thrown into the sea. In the same tatty cardboard box that had been tucked away in a dusty corner of that loft were some other exercise books from my school days. My English books were filled with stories, almost all of them bloody and gruesome and leaving me questioning my parents as to why they didn’t feel the need to get professional intervention at any point. I was only half serious.
My love of dark literature has always been there, from the moment I first learned to read and write. I devoured Point Horror novels as a child, before moving on to Stephen King and Clive Barker when I was twelve, so should have realised that my first attempt at writing a novel – a dramatic mystery set in Africa – wasn’t really where my heart was. Neither was the fantasy I wrote some years later, though it was apparently good enough to land me a fantastic agent. That novel didn’t find a home with a publisher, but by the time the news came through I was already working on my next project, The 100 Society. My first attempt at a thriller, it was when I first felt that ‘click’ with a genre, a feeling of finally coming home. I loved to read dark thrillers, so why on earth hadn’t I tried writing them before? The 100 Society was a pleasure to write, the words flowing onto the page more easily than they ever had with any of my past projects. Sure enough, this was the novel that landed me my first publishing contract. After many years, much perseverance and many hundreds of thousands of words later, I had finally reached my goal. I have a friend in the entertainment industry and we often remind each other that , while we are indeed incredibly lucky to have jobs we love, that luck came with a lot of hard work.
When I first started writing seriously, I spent many, many hours online in forums looking for tips, advice and information. I wrote and re-wrote, always learning and always looking for ways to improve. The other thing I learned from these websites is that the process of creating a novel is as subjective as the enjoyment of them. While I now have something of a style and process for approaching the task, it took me a while to figure out that everybody is different. While some people like to plan rigorously and stick to their outline, others like to start with nothing but an idea, willing to let the story take them where it may. I’ve found that my process lies somewhere in the middle.
Before I start writing, I need to have a basic outline. Nothing too huge, just a couple of pages outlining the main plot points and, of course, how it ends. The process itself is usually quite fluid. I stick to the outline up to the point where the story takes over and the characters almost take on lives of their own. It can be a little problematic at times, especially when it means the storyline takes an unexpected turn, but then I’ve always preferred the scenic route. I’ve just finished my next novel and at the very end found myself killing off a character who was never supposed to die. It was quite shocking and I wasn’t even sure which way it was going to go until they took their last breath, but I ultimately decided that if it was a surprise to me, then surely it would be a surprise to the reader.
Inspiration for The 100 Society came from a walk on London’s South Bank. I can’t remember which piece of graffiti caught my attention that day, but something caused a spark of inspiration. By the time I’d got home, that spark had blossomed into a fire and I knew I had an idea that just wasn’t going to let go. I wrote my two page outline in about ten minutes and within a week had written the first ten thousand words.
It wasn’t all that easy, of course. It never is. Thrillers often have a number of interwoven threads which need to be neatly tied up at the end, so it’s like trying to pick through a plate of spaghetti looking for any broken strands. This is the part I find to be the most challenging, but ultimately the most satisfying when finished. Sometimes I wish I could return to the simple days of writing about pirates and sailors, with no worries about plot holes or character arcs. But then I see my own copy of The 100 Society sitting on desk beside me and I know that I’d spend the rest of my life untangling spaghetti if it means I get to continue doing what I love.
(c) Carla Spradbery
The 100 Society is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here.
To find out more about Carla, check out her website http://www.carlaspradbery.com