This book was long in the making and underwent some massive transformations along the way. When I wrote the first draft back in the 1990s it was even darker and longer, and I have to admit that it was also more graphic in both language and content. Nonetheless, I came very close to gaining interest from both a renowned agent as well as a publisher, but for a variety of reasons it fell by the wayside.
In the 2000s I worked with an editor on Degrees, and the book I eventually ended up with began to take shape. I removed entire scenes in which the antagonist and his victim spent time together, softened the physical elements, increased the psychological impact, and worked hard on the pace and approach of the book so that three clear components were identified: a father’s grim determination to save his daughter, a killer’s dive into the abyss, and a child’s desperate fight to survive.
This was pretty much the version that I first sent to my publishers, Bloodhound Books. They declined, citing the graphic language as an issue for them. I decided I could live with softening the language a little more, and also took the opportunity to bring the book up to date. The result of all this was published in September 2017 and to some absolutely stunning reviews.
It was a tough book to write, so dark are some of the elements contained within its pages. Some scenes, especially the exchanges between the father and the killer were at times disturbing, but the hardest of all were those written from the perspective of the child held captive expecting to die. Those were some dark corridors to walk I can tell you, but it was also necessary to take my readers along with me so that they would gain an insight into her mind at the worst time of her young life. I don’t believe the book would have worked had I omitted those scenes.
I wrote Degrees as a stand-alone. I’ve attempted two sequels since, but have been unsatisfied with both and have set them aside. I just didn’t think they held up, lacking the substance of Degrees. By the time it was published I had no intention of returning to the main characters, but a lot of readers have said they would love to read more, and I have subsequently tinkered with some potential storylines and have a feeling now that there may yet be a sequel after all.