Fun Facts

A few fun facts and thoughts of my own about the Half Bad trilogy


In 2010 I started writing a story that would eventually evolve into Half Bad. But when I began, I had no notion of becoming a published author, so I used names of friends and family for all the characters. When I decided to look for an agent, I had to go through the manuscript and change all the names away from ones associated with me personally, except I couldn’t bear to change them all … and two remain. Deborah and Jessica are Nathan’s sisters and those are the names of my oldest friend and my youngest niece. I’ve not yet had to contact my lawyer about this, but I now completely avoid names of people I know in my manuscripts.

Nathan and Marcus

Jason, Josh and Marcus were names that I tried out for the hero of Half Bad before I settled on Nathan. I wasn’t even sure about Nathan at first, but now it seems perfect for him. I liked the name Marcus, and it sounded like it would suit a dangerous character, so used it for Nathan’s father.

Gabriel’s birth

I don’t plot my stories (see My Writing) and I came to a standstill three quarters of the way through writing Half Bad. Nathan had to get to Mercury, but he couldn’t just turn up at her front door. I spent weeks trying to work out different scenarios of how that might happen, but they all felt either overly complicated or just wrong. I was stuck, but I knew I had to write something – anything – or I’d be stuck forever. So I just decided to write the simplest way out of my problem: Nathan would meet someone who would take him to Mercury. I expected what I’d write would be pretty awful – but anything is better than nothing. However, to make the process less awful I thought I might as well invent the most gorgeous man to be Nathan’s guide. This man had to be beautiful, clever, funny, loyal and have a French accent. He was Gabriel.


As I was writing the scene where Nathan and Gabriel meet, I knew I was onto something good: the writing was easy, which is always a positive sign. As I continued and spent more time with Gabriel’s character, I realised I was falling in love with him, and I knew that if I felt that way, Nathan would love him too. What I wasn’t prepared for was that just about everyone else who comes across Gabriel adores him as well. Readers around the world love Gabriel and love his relationship with Nathan.

Gabriel’s name

I once knew a family who named all their children after angels, and I loved this idea. Gabriel’s name was one that was easy for me to decide upon as he is indeed angelic.


Only two people in the world are allowed to shorten Gabriel’s name to Gab. Those people are me and Nathan. That’s the rule.

The name of the knife

I’m lucky to have worked with talented editors and although it’s daunting to get their feedback, I know it always helps to improve my work and I rarely disagree with what they have to say. One of my favourite examples of the editing process is in Half Bad. My editor, Ben, commented, ‘There’s a lot of knives in this story.’ This was not even a criticism as such, but it got me thinking that maybe I should get rid of one or two knives or change them to something else. There was a knife in Celia’s boot that Nathan tried to stab her with, and I considered changing it to a gun, but Celia wouldn’t have a gun, so that knife had to stay. Then there was the knife that Gabriel gave to Nathan as a present, and I tried to think of another gift but couldn’t think of anything better, so that stayed. And finally, there was the knife that Nathan was supposed to use to kill his father. This knife couldn’t change as it was a vital part of the plot. So instead, I decided to make this knife more important than the other two knives by giving it a name – it’s called the Fairborn in the first edition and the Detheridge in later editions. But once I’d given it a name the knife’s significance increased hugely. Suddenly the knife had a history and, even more, a personality; the knife wanted blood. I could write a whole novel about this knife!

Nesbitt’s name

In Half Wild I added two of my favourite characters to the Half Bad world. I quickly came up with a name for Victoria Van Dal (usually shortened to Van), but I couldn’t think of a name for her sidekick. I knew what he looked like – James Nesbitt, the actor – so as a temporary measure I called him Nesbitt. I never came up with a better name.


I don’t often think of actors who can play roles of my characters when I’m creating them, but Cate Blanchett is Van.


There was so much for me to think about in Half Bad, especially in terms of working out a world of witches, witch powers and witch organisation, that I decided to keep locations simple for me to imagine. I only used locations I knew. So, each place, from Liverpool to Switzerland, is a place I’m familiar with.

Gran’s wood

Gran’s wood is based on a place near to where I live where I frequently go for walks, and it inspired my writing of Half Bad. It’s not a big wood and is close to a housing estate and a school but as soon as I step into it, I feel like I’m in a different world.

Nathan’s hometown

Nathan is from Warrington. It’s an ordinary small town in the northwest of England. His hometown isn’t named in the books, but I always imagined Nathan was living there when I was writing Half Bad.

Wales is Nathan’s favourite place

From Warrington it’s easy to get to the ancient mountains of North Wales. I often went walking there when I was writing, and I knew it would be a place Nathan would love.

Witch powers

I initially gave every witch three powers, but I quickly ran out of ideas and realised it was far too complicated. So, each witch gets one power on their seventeenth birthday if they go through the giving ceremony. But life isn’t fair, so some witches get good powers (I particularly like the changing appearance one that Jessica has), some get weak powers, and some don’t ever find out what power they’ve got.

More on witch powers

I knew the power of the witches had to relate to the earth and for Nathan this is something he feels. A witch must be in tune with nature to truly access their power and this is why some witches are weak, because they are cutting themselves from the real source of their power.

Sex and violence

I have more violence than sex in my books, but there is both. Unfortunately, I think this ratio reflects the world we live in.


People swear. People swear in my books. What’s more, swearing can help you! There is some great research done on swearing as a tool to improve physical workout strength and as a way of dealing with pain. In certain circumstances swearing is an excellent way of communicating.

That ending

I admit this is less ‘fun’. If you want to read my interpretation of the ending of the trilogy, which is of course full of spoilers, then follow this link.

Half Bad : The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself

Half Bad has been adapted for the screen. The story is different to the books but is set in my world with my main characters. It was an amazing experience to see the books come to life and I’m grateful to the many wonderful, talented people who were involved in making the Netflix show.

Sally with Jay Lycurgo and Emilien Vekemans who play Nathan and Gabriel in the screen adaptation of Half Bad.

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