To really get into the nitty gritty of what I’d like to change in my books, I’d have to reread my own work. And because I’m a coward, I can’t. Even looking at proofs makes me feel like puking and the You Could Have Done Better demons start stabbing me with their hindsight pitchforks. So – from memory – here are the top five things I’d change (I can’t even bear to consider the short stories – seriously, the horror):
1) My second crime novel, Tooth and Nailed features a thinly fictionalised account of a lion attack that happened to me and my family while we were camping wild in Botswana. Bad idea. (Not camping wild and being attacked by lions, that was … interesting, I mean shoehorning personal experiences into books, especially when they don’t move the plot forward).
2) I loved writing the YA zombie series, Deadlands with my daughter, Savannah, especially as we let our characters dictate what would happen, but some of our readers feel that in the first book there are too many short chapters (like, short short), which were designed to appeal to reluctant readers, so we’d probably tweak that. I don’t regret the zombies. Or lesbian ninjas. You can never have too many.
3) If Louis Greenberg and I rewrote the S.L. Grey horror novels, I think I’d tone down the swearing a tad in The Mall. My character, Rhoda, can’t say anything at all without qualifying it with the word fuck – a direct reflection of how I think and speak. I deliberately chose to write a non-potty-mouthed character in the follow-up, The Ward, as a challenge. It was @#$%$#& difficult.
4) I’m too chicken to re-read my first novel Pompidou Posse to be sure of this, but I reckon it could do with losing 10,000 words (and I’m pretty sure it also suffers from serious F-word reliance).
5) With the exception of the S.L. Grey books (as Louis is the supreme sensei of the shag scene) all of my books need more sex in them. Sav and I tried our best to write one in our second Deadlands novel, Death of a Saint, but we just ended up going ewwwwwwwww. Pathetic. In the end, we bribed ace SA writer/poet/editor Helen Moffett to write it for us, as she has fewer qualms than E.L. James about getting down and dirty in print.
We've asked some of our favourite authors a particularly nasty question: what would you change about one of your books?* The first to respond was Sarah Lotz, who isn't just one of the most talented writers, but clearly one of the bravest.
The Mall is out now in paperback from Corvus, with The Ward coming this fall. Pompidou Posse and Tooth and Nailed aren't available in the UK (yet), but you can snaffle copies from your South African friends. The Deadlands series is currently available in South Africa and will be hitting the UK next year, from Corsair.
*We can't take credit for the idea. But since we've high hopes the person who gave it to us will participate [if you're reading this - hint, hint, nudge, puppy-dog eyes], we'll keep schtum for now.