Meet the author: Debrah Martin about her novel Falling Awake

Magic or madness? Can your dreams really take over your life?
Falling Awake is the story of a book and the power of imagination to turn two lives upside down.

THE BOOK: Falling Awake
PUBLISHED: 23rd October 2015
THE AUTHOR: Debrah Martin
THE EDITOR: Dinah Ceely

When Mary Parker finds an unusual book everything in her life changes. As she reads, she dreams, and the quiet, repressed woman is transformed. She gives the book and the phenomenon a name, 'falling awake’. The existence of the book seems to make others act out of character too. Joe’s usually dour father gambles with the factory where Mary works, and Joe, the romantic daydreamer, engages in a sexual eternal triangle to keep the dull routine of the accounts department at bay. The dominant partner in the triangle is Clem; dark and dangerous.
Extricating himself from Clem, Joe meets Mary. They fall in love and marry in haste when Mary falls pregnant, but this is no happy ever after tale. Their joy turns to misery when Mary miscarries and she turns inward to her darkening 'falling awake' world. Then Joe's father dies, and he has to fight for control of the factory. He falls into Clem’s clutches again, and to make things worse, he believes Mary is going mad, and the people and places she remembers all just dreams dreamt inside her insanity. But then how can Joe remember them too?
Magic or madness? For Mary and Joe, the impossible - and the deadly - is only a breath away. Just don't fall awake...

The book started out as a series of short stories, the central one of which was Burlesque Belle’s story. Belle acts out her fantasy of killing Monsieur Jacques, the way many of us live out our dreams of frustration, anger and separation – but what would happen if we did in reality what we imagine doing in our dreams? There seemed to be a theme linking all of the stories by then: what is real and what imagined – as is possible with all stories. Mary grew from the theme, and the journey in her head set off in the direction of insanity or something even less tangible. Playing around with the idea of dreaming and waking ultimately led me to the principle of lucid dreaming. Is Mary awake or dreaming; mad or sane? And is Joe awake or dreaming, or infected with Mary’s instability? As the late great Terry Pratchett said, ‘madness is infectious’. Could Mary and Joe even be both within the same dream? And what would happen if one awoke and established control within their dream whilst the other sunk deeper still. What would constitute reality then?

Falling Awake relates to lucid dreaming – the phenomena of waking inside a dream and knowing themselves to be within a dream. Those who have mastered the skill of lucid dreaming claim to even be able to control what they do within the dream too…

It is a brain teaser, an atmospheric mystery, an exposition of madness; an examination of the impossible, a fantasy, a ghost story, a psychological thriller, a love story, a story of intrigue and of sudden death. It will keep you awake at night, wondering, and pausing during the day, questioning … As the description says, ‘Just don’t fall awake…’

One editor has already described it as:
“In the best traditions of Audrey Niffenegger and Carlos Ruiz Zafón…”

Some other previous editorial comments are:
“…one of the most original, quirky manuscripts I’ve read for a long time…”
“…I especially like the fairy-tale and myth undertones that creep in from time to time throughout the novel: Sleeping Beauty clutching her book with echoes of Snow White in her glass coffin, the transformative red mac with its Red Riding Hood connotations, Mary’s Cinderella transformation from emotionally abused child to confident woman, the mermaid dress, Mariam’s Scheherazade dance, and especially the gambler as Rumpelstiltskin…”
“…a light, authoritative touch with both …story and characters.”

Debrah Martin writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, was released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs and Magpies are the first two in the series.
So why not stick to just one name and one genre?
‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.
You can find out about all of her books and latest releases on her website

The prologue:

‘What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story.’
Pedro Calderon de la Barca

No-one could sleep forever.
But apparently she could. It was the unusual challenge to the premise that had brought him here against the inclination to evade responsibility and slip home to his own dreams. She’d slept continuously for days now, without the need for water or sustenance; her only requirement, seemingly, a book. He peered curiously through the viewing panel as the attendant hovered behind him.
‘That’s her,’ the attendant announced as if pulling a rabbit from a hat. ‘Mary Parker.’
‘She’s very pretty,’ the tall young man declared, deep blue eyes narrowing to slits as he studied her. The woman’s long red hair cascaded over the side of the bed like blood streaming to the floor, her face a marble effigy of life. She reminded him of Millais’ Ophelia as she floated downstream on her layette of wild flowers – except this frozen beauty was merely asleep, not dead. He wondered what she was dreaming about. She seemed very familiar in a strange half-forgotten way.
‘Yeah, she is – and quiet now, but she weren’t once. Blimey – you should have seen her then, screaming and hollering. Wasn’t until we found that old book and gave it back to her that she shut up.’ The attendant picked at his nails and watched the tall young man lean in closer still. The corner of a book poked out from under the tightly clasped hands. ‘Then she just slept,’ the attendant added, shrugging his shoulders.
‘What’s its significance?’ the young man asked. He could just make out a title scrawled longhand across its spine. He wondered if the woman had written it on herself. He could only decipher the first word – ‘Falling’.
‘Not a clue, Mister; it’s just an empty book.’ The attendant shifted impatiently, as if tired of waiting, then asked, ‘How’d you know her again?’ He flipped the visitors’ page back to read the tall young man’s entry.

22nd Sept ’92: Time in – 5.45pm. John Hathorne, Director: Geo. Tooley & Sons.

‘I don’t really. She worked at the factory, that’s all. We have to be seen as caring employers so I’m here to check on her before we sign her off the books.’ He paused. Now he came to think of it he might have met her once. There had been a girl with bright red hair like hers the day he’d been shown round the factory. He’d been surprised by her scarlet mac because of the colour clash. He dragged himself from his reverie.
‘You said she had no family?’
‘Nope, apparently the mother died a while back and the neighbours say she’s been a bit odd ever since. Before they brought her in here she was wandering the graveyard down the road babbling about how she couldn’t find herself any more. Shame – when you got no-one.’
‘How do you think she can do it?’
‘Not eat or drink for so long – just sleep.’
‘Beats me. Maybe she’s not really there and we’re just imagining her.’ The young man stared at him. The attendant laughed. ‘Only joking. You done then?’ The attendant looked expectantly at him, and the young man found himself involuntarily offering his business card before collecting his briefcase and coat.
‘I suppose I could see if I can do something to help her if she comes back to the land of the living.’
The attendant turned the card over and read aloud, ‘Bespoke leisure wear and stage costumiers; themed event supplies a speciality.’ He studied the tall young man. ‘Versions of reality, huh? You’ll be getting a lot of custom soon, then.’ He sniggered. Outside the midweek rush hour traffic distantly hooted on its way home. The light had dimmed to the half-dusk of early autumn, but fallen leaves and skeletal trees said winter was already in the air.
The tall young man had spotted the now redundant leather straps on the side of the bed when he’d been trying to decipher the title of the book. The reddening round her wrists indicated where no doubt they’d been clasped until recently. ‘Halloween does tend to be a busy time,’ he agreed, suddenly uneasy. The place was oppressive and the sight of the comatose and confined woman depressed him. ‘Such a waste. Will she ever recover, do you think?’
‘Don’t know, mister. Not sure if she’s actually ill. Probably just the stresses of life – grief and disappointment. They do strange things to us, don’t they? Perhaps if she had someone to look after her, she’d get well again, but then who knows when anyone recovers from life.’ He laughed mirthlessly. ‘Maybe it’s better to just dream?’ The tall young man considered the idea for a while.
‘No, reality is always better, no matter how hard.’
He went back to the viewing window and studied the young woman for a few minutes more before gathering up the Essex County Gazette he’d brought with him and stuffing it under the arm carrying the briefcase. The pages creased and he made to flatten them, but stopped abruptly and tossed the paper back on the table the attendant had been sitting at when he’d arrived. He peered at his hand as if there was something wrong with it before shaking his head. The attendant cleared his throat meaningfully and opened the unit’s outer door.
‘I hope her dreams are sweet,’ the young man added sadly as the attendant ushered him out. The attendant flicked the light off and the room behind them sank back into shadow.
Neither saw the frozen figure thaw, stir, and open her eyes – deep green pools of luminescence. They fixed on the door and she listened intently to the low rumble of the tall young man’s voice as he made his goodbyes. The marble features creased to a frown and the slack body tensed. The book still clutched in her hand shivered.
‘No!’ she murmured. ‘No, no, no!’


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Twitter handle: @StorytellerDeb
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