BloodMining – a powerful but gentle tale of our near future
BloodMining is Laura Wilkinson’s first novel. Many writers are well into their second, third or even fourth before they find either an agent or a publisher. BloodMining won Bridge House Publishing’s 2010 novel competition, the prize being publication. It is a well-deserved winner, a novel that does what a good novel should; engaging the reader by telling an absorbing, interesting story, giving us real characters with all their associated flaws but also, it attempts to draw our attention to important issues related to the twenty-first century. Ideally, a novel must say something; a well written, beautifully crafted tale goes nowhere without a meaning, whether subliminal or explicit.
To varying degrees this novel gives us all three. The plot is intriguing; some of the characters –particularly I thought – Elizabeth who appears in the mid-section – are utterly believable, evoking the type of empathy that inspires us to turn the pages; compels us to read on. Wilkinson takes several contemporary themes; older mothers, surrogacy for financial gain, globalisation and its impact on the ease of ‘buying’ children and the consequences of a strong ‘nanny-state.’ In Wilkinson’s future, smoking and drinking is out-lawed, and you get the feeling, joy and having fun isn’t what the powers that be, expect from their civil subjects.
The novel is organised neatly into three sections, beginning in the not so distant future of 2048, where the scene is set with our protagonist, Megan, a journalist. A strong-minded career girl, who we find out early on, is pregnant. Megan decides to keep the baby but not the man. She moves back to her native Wales, and lives with her mother, Elizabeth.
The second section introduces us to a younger Elizabeth and the back-story of Megan’s origins. It is this part of the novel which truly captured my heart. A future of 2015-20 is described poignantly by Wilkinson, playing and capitalising on the ‘eco-worries’ of our own generation. A plague kills a high proportion of the populace including Elizabeth’s three children and her husband. This section continues with the introduction of Hannah, Elizabeth’s mother, comparing and contrasting their very different reactions to the devastation and death surrounding them and the two women’s personality types.
The third section, 2052-53, sees the resolution of the story. I don’t want to say too much, in case you find yourself reading the novel (you should)! But Wilkinson gives us the ending we would want; steering clear of a more contentious dénouement, which I think was a wise decision.
Wilkinson writes well, competently and very often, beautifully.
She is a natural in her descriptions of both setting and character. She doesn’t over-write and appears to be the master, the boss, of the world she has created, which is quite a feat for a first-time novel.
About Laura Wilkinson
Laura has been writing seriously for six years. She is a trained journalist and found herself amidst the explosion of the worldwide web. She worked as a copy-editor for several charities and is very proud, as she should be, of her involvement as editor in the creative writing online publication, Hagsharlotsandheroines. The publication concentrated on the stories of strong, famous women, both contemporary and from history. Wilkinson is interested in ‘the woman’s angle’ and she is mesmerised by the strength and versatility of women – a theme which is very apparent in BloodMining.
Like many aspiring writers, she ‘cut her teeth’ on short fiction, which is where the idea for her first novel came from. She explored the idea of a women (in the novel, it is Hannah, Elizabeth’s mother) becoming pregnant via a donor egg, from an unknown (and unwilling) donor. The novel then explores the consequences of this unsavoury scenario. It was after winning a several short story competitions, including being a finalist in The New Writer short fiction competition that she decided to tackle the literary marathon, known as novel-writing.
Laura admits to being incredibly disciplined, tenacious and willing to take constructive criticism. BloodMining, is the result of these qualities – qualities that are definitely needed to complete a full length work. She possesses an eclectic reading taste (as do many successful writers), and gives the advice, if you want to write – seriously write – you need to seriously read. She has been influenced by Margaret Atwood, Maggie O’Farrell and many others.
The road to literary success is long and laborious. ‘A writer needs – as well as talent – some luck,’ she says. Laura submitted BloodMining to twelve agents before entering it into a handful of novel competitions. Out of the twelve agents two liked it a lot, but unfortunately not enough to take her on. Laura says, ‘It’s a very competitive business out there, and also very subjective. A potential agent has to literally ‘fall in love’ with your novel. Out of the four novel competitions she submitted to, she was shortlisted in three. And then, as we know, Laura won the Bridge House competition.
I asked Laura what was the best moment for her, regarding the completion of her novel and the competition. I expected her to say, ‘the call telling me I’d won,’ or ‘the book launch.’ But it was none of these things;
‘It was when I’d finished the first draft. That was the moment I felt the most elated. I’d done it. I looked at the four hundred odd sheets of paper sitting on my dining room table, and really couldn’t believe I’d done it,’ she told me.
I asked Laura what she was working on at the moment? ‘I’ve already completed my second novel,’ she tells me, ‘it’s called “Parade” and explores the relationship between a physically beautiful but psychologically damaged artist and a deformed boy.’ The story is inspired by some well-known contemporary artists, including Cindy Sherman the celebrated American photographer, and ‘Orlan’ a French performance artist. Laura has had extremely positive feedback from the Winchester Writing Festival regarding her second novel and – I’m certain – it will find a publisher. It is evident that Laura is a deep-thinking writer; she does have something to say and her need to say it is the characteristic which drives her and her creativity.
I believe Laura is at the very beginning of her ‘literary journey,’ and I look forward to seeing where it will end. BloodMining is a very impressive first novel and I predict a bright and starry future for this Brighton-based, mother of two, who also happens to be a very talented writer.