Distant Early Warning

Above: Maddy Brody

As of January 2024, I am actively seeking to attain agency representation with this novel.

Distant Early Warning is my first novel for teens and young adults. It is authored by a marginalised woman and utilises authentic Northern Voice, dialect and setting. It also includes lived experience of undiagnosed ASD, trauma, asexuality and mental health in a British school setting.

Content warnings for: minor self injury, anxiety, panic attacks, abandonment trauma.

Overview

Dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ estrangement, fourteen-year-old Maddy refuses to let people in, when deep down it’s all she wants. As an outcast at grey St Annes, she’s dreading her best friend Kayn’s upcoming move. With no one else to rely on and an ugly history of panic attacks, she seeks distraction in the only way she knows how: morbid curiosity. Maddy does what any true crime nut would do after discovering a comb made of bones in the woods: she brings it home, unknowingly binding herself to a banshee, a sobbing warning of death tied to her Irish lineage…

Paranormal phenomena go wherever the banshee manifests, painting Maddy as the instigator to her classmates. Inadvertently, these wild events also hand her bullies a stab at targeting St Anne’s own ‘psycho’. Harassed by both the physical and metaphysical, Maddy struggles to bury the comb– only to find it back in her bag– until flower child Crystal is introduced. But incense and rocks won’t stave off a vengeful fairy for long. Too stressed to acknowledge Kayn’s consolation attempts, Maddy shuts him, and everyone else, out completely– heralding the banshee’s cry. 

Kayn survives the banshee’s cry, barely, but might not survive another injury, so Maddy goes seeking answers and hope isn’t lost. Alongside Crystal’s insight, inheriting a family omen means that solutions aren’t far from Gran’s homemade hotpot. But painstakingly, she’ll have to confront some unpleasant, long-buried feelings to find them– because it’s her own repressed emotions that are fuelling the banshee. When she jeopardises a bully by accident, this becomes frighteningly clear. To take back her power, meeting a woman famous for crying might not be such a bad thing after all…

Background

Distant Early Warning began its development in 2015 when I was still in university. I was tasked with the assignment to design a character for a short animation and this is where my novel’s main character and concept was born: a girl haunted by a banshee. I wrote the first drafts of my novel in the winter of 2019, and in 2022, finished its second draft. In 2023, I had my book beta-read and now seek to attain traditional publication.

If you are a literary agent looking to add something like this to your list, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me at sian.johnstone95@gmail.com