Sunday, 5 February 2017

Angela Clarke on Why I Dedicated My Book to Someone I’d Never Met

How do you decide who to dedicate your book to? Once you’ve done all the usual suspects: your parents, your lover, your children, siblings you are particularly fond of, and those you’re not, who else makes that hallowed page? As a writer that whole blank page they leave at the beginning is as inviting as fresh snow. (Though they forgot in my first published book, so the dedication is squished above all the legal stuff – thanks, guys). Sure, you’ve had a whole book to say what you want, but if it was fiction, that wasn’t really you, it was your character. My protagonists, twenty-four-year-old wannabe-journalist-come-big-mouth-world-saver Freddie Venton and her unshakable, reasoned ex-school mate, now police detective, pal DS Nasreen Cudmore, would credit completely different people than me. Nasreen, not keen on the limelight, would keep it clean, tight, uncompromising and predictable, she’d thank her family. Freddie would probably fill half the page with a diatribe, or a swipe at someone who’d wronged her in the past. Her dedication would be an eloquent two fingers up at someone who said she wouldn’t amount to much. There’d be a long list. And she’d be in glorious company. E E Cummings, famously dedicated his poetry collection No Thanks, repeating the title and lack of sentiment, with a list of every publisher that had rejected him on his first page. There are fourteen publishing houses listed, the defiant bitterness rammed home by each name being arranged into the shape of a funeral urn. The ashes of disappointment E E Cummings’ career would rise out of. Sock it to them, dude.

Joseph J. Rotman, dedicated An Introduction To Algebraic Topology: ‘To my wife Marganit and my children Ella Rose and Daniel Adam, without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier.’ A witty subversion from the norm. The dedication is an excellent showcase for the author’s character. I enjoyed Katerina Diamond’s dedication to her second crime thriller The Secret: ‘For my husband, without whom I would think about murder a lot less.’ And Gillian Flynn’s, Dark Places, which states: ‘What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?’ Humorous and touching is a killer combination, giving a glimpse of the author behind the work. Jacqueline Susann dedicated Valley of the Dolls to her poodle. Because why not? You’re the author, you write the book, you get to dedicate it to who, whom, or what you wish. But those little words can reveal more than you might have intended. Charlotte Bronte triggered gossip when she dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to William Thackeray, after he enthusiastically reviewed the book. Problem was everyone thought William had worked his way between more than Lottie’s pages. Dedications are a minefield.

Which leads me back to my own opening page. Watch Me is the second in the Social Media Murder Series, and like the first, Follow Me, I undertook research while writing it. The story, among other things, concerns revenge porn, and specifically the anonymous online message boards where posters request and share stolen intimate and graphic images of their targets. The majority of victims in this area are girls aged 14- 25. They may be photos that have been instantly deleted, never shared, or sent to anyone else, but copies are still hacked and lifted from the cloud. These message boards are a grotty, dirty, depressing place to lurk and witness this violation, this humiliation, this horror of a modern crime. I wanted to bleach my keyboard, my computer, my eyes after seeing the grim reality and fallout of revenge porn. And then I spoke to Laura Higgins. Laura founded and runs the Revenge Porn Helpline in the UK. She sees this stuff every day. She speaks and meets with victims, fighting for them: legally, logistically, technically, and emotionally. Day in, day out, Laura and her team make a real difference to people’s lives. They are righting wrongs. They are educating, lobbying, and advocating against revenge porn. And I knew then that both Freddie and Nasreen would approve of my choice. Watch Me is dedicated to a woman I’ve never met. A group of people I’ve never met.  

It's for Laura Higgins and all those who work at Proper, real life, crime fighting heroes.

Watch Me
The body of a 15-year-old is found hours after she sends a desperate message to her friends. It looks like suicide, until a second girl disappears.  This time, the message is sent directly to the Metropolitan Police – and an officer’s younger sister is missing.  DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton will stop at nothing to find her. But whoever’s behind the notes is playing a deadly game of hide and seek – and the clock is ticking.

Angela Clarke’s latest book Watch Me (Avon, HarperCollins) is out now. 

You can find out more about Angela on Follow her on Twitter @TheAngelaClarke. You can also find her on Facebook and on Instagram @TheAngelaClarke

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