Author captures the light among the dark

As teenage tales of vampires and werewolves dominated bookshelves over the past few years, author Marianne Curley was getting a little sick of seeing so much darkness in adolescent books.

As a young adult novelist dealing in the realms of the supernatural and paranormal, she wanted to write something more positive than what was on offer - but she just wasn't sure what.

Her inspiration finally came from an unfortunate place. In 2004, Curley was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and as a poor candidate for a stem-cell bone marrow transplant, she was given a 35 per cent chance of survival.

Thankfully, one of her siblings' stem cells was a perfect match and Curley began the long road to recovery, including a setback of a fall that fractured five vertebrae in her lower back.

As she lay in a hospital bed for five months, she received frequent messages of support from family and friends, as well as relatives in Malta she had never met and there she found her subject matter - angels.

"When I was ill I had a lot of people saying angels were out there helping me.

"I come from a traditional Catholic family and my parents are Maltese, but I've never been to Malta, but when I was ill I had relatives and cousins, people I didn't even know, who were ringing up telling me they were saying masses for me and I did really feel carried by that love," Curley says.

"I'd had what some people called a miracle happen to me and I wanted to put something out there that was lighter, that was a little more inspirational."

As she approaches her 18th birthday, her supernatural abilities grow stronger and angels begin tracking her down with the help of her human charge.

The Dark Prince has plans for Ebony and is unwilling to let her go and so begins a battle between the light and the dark.

It took the Queensland-based author five years to write and edit Hidden due to the poor concentration and exhaustion that were the side effects of her recovery.

During that time she read everything she could about angels to construct their world, give her characters names and make it as "factual" as possible.

Having already written four young adult novels, she found it incredibly frustrating to not be able to follow her usual plan, often times hitting her head on the keyboard when she pushed a day's writing too far.

"I like plans and I'm not real good at change, but when you have no choice you just have to go with it. It wasn't easy but the end result is the book is going to be published, so it's going to be worth it."

Though Curley wrote another, as yet unpublished, manuscript that dealt directly with her illness, she says parts of what she learnt during her struggle have found their way into Hidden, especially in the character of Ebony.

"The emotions and the drama and what I went through, the depth of the feeling of being so close to death and thinking about the beyond, it's definitely in the characters.

"Having insight into that experience has got to improve my writing I think, it gives me insight into the deeper emotions people are forced into during adversity."

Hidden is the first instalment of a planned trilogy which Curley has almost completed.

Throughout her illness, she was determined to keep writing for the young adult age group because she believes in the power books with a positive message can have on young minds.

"I had a reader from the US contact me . . . at the time of Hurricane Katrina and she was in the Superbowl Arena, where they were all packed in for the duration, and she said she had my Guardians trilogy with her and just read it through these days and said it just helped her get through it.

"It's beautiful to get that, you really do reach into their hearts," Curley says. 

Hidden

´╗┐Marianne Curley

Bloomsbury, $15.99

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