Nurse-turned-novelist becomes a bestseller

Mental health nurse-turned-novelist recalls teenager's remark that sparked idea for bestseller

A nurse-turned-novelist has become a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller.

Ali Land says her writing is an extension of her nursing  Photo: Laura Lewis Photography

Mental health nurse Ali Land had agents and publishers vying for her novel Good Me Bad Me before she had even finished writing it.

Ms Land signed a deal with Penguin in the UK, which published the book in January 2017, before the rights were sold in 23 territories.

Inspired by real life

The story – a thriller told from the perspective of Milly, a teenage girl whose mother is a serial killer – was inspired a real-life conversation, according to the author.

‘It was not a real story, but it was a real conversation I’d had with a teenage girl,’ said Ms Land, who spent 10 years nursing children and young people in the UK and Australia.

‘Her self-harming was escalating and one fraught night she told me why. She was convinced that no matter what she did, she would turn into her mother, who had been involved in the serious harm of young children.

‘Although her mum wasn’t a serial killer, she had been involved in the serious harm of young children. She believed she would turn into her mother.

Disturbing image

'The girl described clearly her insides were black and she would always be black on the inside and always be bad.

‘I remember feeling so haunted by that and the burden she had to carry,’ she said. 'Other people in her life were telling her "you will be just like your mother".'

'I started thinking: imagine having a criminal mum and thinking you would always be like that, no matter what you did, good or bad – and so the character of Milly was born.’

Nursing legacy

Adjusting to life as a bestselling author after leaving behind a nursing career has taken some adjustment.

‘Being a writer is solitary and I miss young people, there is something magical about kids – it’s boring without the teenagers,’ Ms Land said.

‘But I very much see writing as an extension of my nursing. I’ll be writing about issues that are difficult, provocative and that we should be talking about.’

Mental health issues

Ms Land added that since her book’s publication, she has had the opportunity to talk about mental health issues in public.

‘It’s so powerful and the same as being a nurse – I’m not working in a clinical sense, but I still feel like I am working as a nurse and I don’t ever want to lose that.’

Good Me Bad Me: the Sunday Times bestseller

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