Because in the summer of 2009 I did an Arvon course with Malorie Blackman and Melvyn Burgess. One of the most significant statements Malorie made - for me anyway - was to make sure you are clear about the themes of your novels. This will help both to focus your writing and tighten the focused pitch to agents/editors/ other gatekeepers once your opus magnus is ready to fly.
It was just in time really because the Summer of 2009 was when all the editors suddenly sat up and decided they loved the first novel, HIDDEN, that my agent had been submitting. The year before it was all rejection including two on a single Friday afternoon - that made for a great weekend as you can imagine!
Here are the themes to each of my three novels in the cycle, followed by a bit of plot summary to show the role of the theme in the book. My publishers are Meadowside Books.
HIDDEN, March 2011
The theme of this novel is the courage to stand up for what you believe in, against the crowd.
The main character, Alix, sticks up for Samir, the foreign boy in her class, who is the victim of racist bullying.
Her courage is tested when they find an illegal immigrant washed up on a beach and Samir pleads with her to help hide him, to save him from being deported.
ILLEGAL, February 2012
The themes of this novel are identity and independence. Lindy is looking after Cousin Colin's cannabis farm which is fine. But then he forces her into pushing cocaine which terrifies her. She doesn't want to end up in prison like her brothers. 'I'm better than my family,' Lindy tells herself and the only way she can prove it is to free herself from Colin's clutches and find her own salvation.
STUFFED, September 2012The theme of this novel is loyalty : loyalty tested and loyalty reaffirmed. . As this is work in progress, I'll leave it at that.
When I was called in by editors and then as we went forward with Meadowside who ultimately became my wonderful publishers, having clear themes in my head which I could trot out and illustrate with bits from the books, clarified the whole cycle and certainly helped towards the offer of a three book contract.
It has also given me a much firmer base to build on when talking about my books.
And if my publishers want to continue with the cycle there are plenty more themes to build plots around that I can explore.
What are the themes of your novels?