The Rebirth of Henry Whittle opens with one man intent on murdering another; an old friend. A man, ex special forces is driving a black BMW to a detached, isolated house in Harefield, Greater London. As he cruises the country lanes, dead on the speed limit, forty miles an hour, Old Friend by Elderbrook plays.
Four years ago I wrote my first novel constructed from an idea my daughter and I fell upon after watching Vampire Diaries. Damon…gorgeous, dangerous, charismatic. Do you trust him, don’t you? Isn’t that the question a million romances are based on. Damon, Heathcliff, don’t we all crave a bad boy? Don’t we want to be kept on the edge?
But we don’t want a Hollywood beauty, a moody Elena, a spoilt Catherine. No Phoenix Whittle has to be relatable but still a character teens aspire to but for the right reasons. Her tenacity, her inner strength, her optimism. This has to be tested. The life of a teen is never easy: self-doubt, peer pressure, bullying, that feeling you’re trapped in a life you hate.
Then we need a premise. How does our bad boy meet our struggling young adult. She’s on the verge of adulthood/in care/about to be homeless. He’s an ex special forces contract killer. He has a grudge; a fellow marine who left him for dead. He exacts revenge and assumes his enemy’s identity – Henry Whittle.
The real Henry Whittle, prior to being shot at point-blank, reached out to Phoenix, offering her a home. They’ve never met…but they’re about to.
When The Rebirth of Henry Whittle was finished I queried agents, I found representation, a year of editing and my novel was sent to publishers. It was passed over. But this is what they said:
“I’ve had a chance to read some of The Rebirth of Henry Whittle and, sadly, while it’s compelling, it is dark and that’s not what we’re looking for at Bloomsbury.”
“Henry Whittle – it was certainly an interesting and unusual read! As we suspected, it is on the older end…Orchard Books”
“I really enjoyed The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, the settings are gripping and it has a really nice cast of characters…Orion”
“Henry Whittle, I think is one of the most distinct novels I have read in some time and really enjoyed the noir Mean Girls element to it. For me it was a little too adult focused…Electric Monkey”
“My thoughts on Henry Whittle. Although this obviously has a pretty dark premise at its core, I actually really liked this story. It was a bit weird and twisty, but I rather like weird and twisty…Hot Key Books.”
But The Rebirth of Henry Whittle was not taken up and I lost heart in writing and took a break. I came back stronger with RANDOM ATTACHMENT and now a darker, more sensual REBIRTH OF HENRY WHITTLE.
What would you do for love? How dark can you get?
CHAPTER 1 HENRY WHITTLE
I’m disappointed. No pursuit, no pleading. Whittle is so off his face he doesn’t believe it’s me. He’s different; his looks diminished, his face gaunt and unshaven, his muscle wasted.
I attach the silencer; purely precautionary; the house is remote. I put the muzzle against his forehead. I can see the bullet; burning through his skin, piercing muscle, drilling its way through cranial bone – it’s then the real damage occurs – the speed of it tearing tissue and membrane. I smile; it’s hard not to. I pull the trigger.
I return the gun to its leather pouch. I feel nothing. Killing point blank is no harder than from a distance; it neither thrills me nor guilts me. I am under no illusion about what I do, who I am. I laugh – who I am. I shake my head at the irony.
I assess myself in Whittle’s mirror. My face is blank; revealing nothing. I’m calm; my heart rate is close to forty beats a minute.
“I’m Henry…Hi, I’m Henry…Henry Whittle.”
My tone is neutral – no edge but no warmth. I try it with a smile.
“Henry Whittle, nice to meet you.”