Sally Green’s first novel Half Bad has already created so much buzz in the publishing industry that many are wondering if the former accountant turned novelist is the next J.K. Rowling.
After leaving a career in accounting to become a stay-at-home mom, Green attended a storytelling festival that ultimately changed her life. “I think that inspired me . . . I had an idea for a story, so one afternoon I thought I’ll write it down . . . I just kept going. You couldn’t have stopped me; I was addicted.”
Now publishers in 42 countries are not only banking on Green’s addiction on carrying her through the completion of a planned trilogy, but they are also betting it will resonate with the same readers that devoured the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight franchises, and have been left hungry for more supernatural storylines.
Half Bad, the first book in the Half Life trilogy, is set in modern-day England where two warring factions of witches, the White and the Black, live secretly among humans. The novel’s protagonist is 16-year-old Nathan, a half-White and half-Black witch who finds himself at the center of a suspenseful conflict – hunted from both sides.
“Character is where a story starts,” says Green, “I had Nathan as this half-bad, half-good character and as soon as I started thinking and putting him in my head . . . and the situation of being dominated by White witches, I really couldn’t stop.”
Nathan, an interracial witch, tries to find his place in a society divided along white and black lines in a world besieged by suspicion and surveillance. It’s easy to draw parallels with some of the issues currently making headlines. But, Green says, “I’m delighted if people see any broader issues of any nature in the book because I think that means people are really thinking about the issues that affect them . . . but I didn’t have that in mind when I was writing.”
Chronicling Nathan’s coming-of-age in a supernatural world of feuding witches might seem a little far-fetched for a writer who claims she “never had enough imagination to write creatively at all.”
The 52-year-old author admits to being shocked by the enormous reaction and the speed with which the first book of her trilogy was snatched up by publishers. “I never really believed the book was going to be published . . . I wasn’t really thinking of people ever going to read it,” says Green. “I was doing it for my own pleasure and trying to write the best book I could.”
An effort that has certainly paid off because a rushed offer to publish Half Bad wasn’t the only proposition Green received in record time. Recently Fox 2000 won the film rights in a bidding war and tapped Karen Rosenfelt who produced the films Twilight and The Book Thief to lead the project. “I can’t believe she has read my book and is so enthusiastic . . . it’s great, yes I’m pleased,” says Green.
Green admits her son might be more excited about the prospect that his mother’s novel might end up on the big screen than he is about reading the book. “He actually hasn’t finished reading the book. He’s 11 and more of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid kind of kid,” commented Green.
When asked if she had any idea who she would like to see play one of her characters in the film, Green responds, “I see Nathan as young and up-and-coming. I hope they are going to find a future star that would be fantastic. The father Marcus, in my head when I was writing, he has the look of George Clooney, but a mean George Clooney.”
Green is also remaining tight-lipped about where the story arc is headed for the second book, due in Spring 2015: “The only thing I can say is that it’s called Half Wild . . . I’m writing it at the moment and the story will follow on.”
Though entirely happy with the success of her novel, Green admits she and her son have to get used to her new career as a full-time writer. Green says her son is “missing the old me. I used to be at home a lot more and it’s a career now.” Despite the new deadlines for her second book and a barrage of requests for interviews, Green confesses that she’s looking forward to spending the summer quietly working on the second book.
“I could write loads of stories about Nathan,” says Green. And for fans of Half Bad that is good news, indeed.
ABC News' Rashid Haddou and David Kovenetsky contributed to this episode.