|Mentee Name||Title of Manuscript||Mentor Name||Age Category||Genre(s)||Total word count (approx.)|
|Jan Dunning||Nightshade||Olivia Levez||YA||Contemporary with speculative/magical elements||79000|
Aspiring photographer Yuki Jones knows which side of the camera she’s meant to be on. Perfect beauty – like that of Dad’s new model girlfriend Bella Wilde – is an unobtainable dream.
When Yuki catches Bella performing a strange ritual in front of an antique mirror, she starts to wonder if there’s something sinister and supernatural about this supermodel. Her suspicions are confirmed as her widowed Dad falls further under Bella’s spell. Suddenly his memories – including those of Thea, the mum Yuki’s never known – are under threat.
Then Bella insists on sending Yuki away to stop her from interfering with a mysterious new ‘project’ – and Dad’s involved. Only by facing the fashion world she fears can Yuki save Dad and stand up for the past, before Bella plunders family secrets for fashion world domination, and the truth is lost forever.
NIGHTSHADE is a YA contemporary novel with speculative/magical elements, complete at 79,000 words – Snow White meets Dorian Gray, for the Instagram generation. It would appeal to readers who have enjoyed The Burning by Laura Bates or The Graces by Laure Eve.
I’m a photographic artist and teacher, and I’ve been writing seriously for a number of years. I developed NIGHTSHADE with the support of the Golden Egg Academy before being selected for the Write Mentor Summer Programme 2020 by my mentor, Olivia Levez.
My inside knowledge of the fashion industry stems from working as a model during my twenties. This experience led me to think about definitions of beauty and how ‘perfection’ – as presented in fashion imagery and on social media – can impact on self-image. As a photographer, I’ve always found flawed or ‘imperfect’ subjects powerful and compelling, so beneath the surface of a fast-paced mystery, NIGHTSHADE also conveys this positive message to teen readers.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I freeze on the landing.
From this angle, the doorway frames her perfectly.
It means beautiful in Italian, and she is.
On the outside.
I grip the camera in my hand.
She isn’t supposed to be here. There was a job today – some photo shoot in Hackney. Her driver came before I left for school. But it’s not even four and she’s back already. I’d have gone to Sam’s if I’d known. I’ve avoided this for a week but it had to happen sometime, I suppose.
Being alone with Bella.
I swallow. How bad can it be?
She’s perched on a stool, her back toward me. I wait for her to turn, say hello, but nothing. Perhaps she hasn’t heard. Then I see she’s busy – absorbed – gazing into the mirror of her dressing table. A dark oval frame, carved with twisting stems. She leans further, her face pressed close to the glass.
I shrink back into the hall. I can still see Bella’s reflection, side-lit and warm in the sun. As she stares, I count the seconds. Six… seven… eight… Will she never blink? Then she licks her lips and the intimacy of the gesture makes me flinch. I look for her make-up, the lipstick she’s about to put on, but the table before her is bare.
My heart thumps.
I should go.
This is none of my business. What do I know about models and their beauty rituals? And I’ve got photos to edit from class.
But why should I leave? It was my house first. Mine and Dad’s. Bella’s the intruder, not me.
I stay where I am.
My eyes are glued to her face.
Even though she’s tired – and I can only just tell by the faintest of shadows underneath her eyes, the tiny vein pulsing at her temple – I’ve never seen anyone so… perfect.
How would that feel?
I push the thought away. No point wondering. I know my side of the camera.
I lift it up to my eye.
Just one shot. She’d never know.
Then Bella clears her throat. The sound makes me jerk my camera down. Sweat beads on my forehead. Breathe. She isn’t talking to me. She’s talking to the mirror, lips moving fast.
A ribbon of ice slides down my spine.
Her voice is a murmur, the words bleeding together, impossible to make out. Speculo… something. What language is that? Sam said she’s lived in Milan. Typical of him to check out her profile on the Façade Agency website. But Italian sounds beautiful and melodic. This is too… throaty. Snarling.
Goosebumps pepper my arms. Something else is happening. The mirror’s surface is distorting, rippling, like pebbles in a pond. No. It’s old, that’s all. The glass is cloudy and cracked. Foxing, it’s called. It happened to the mirror inside Dad’s vintage Rolleiflex.
But if I didn’t know better, I’d almost say that Bella’s face is changing.
Right in front of my eyes.