Announcing: The Felicity Street Annals

“It’s like ‘It’, minus the supernatural but with a hint of ‘50 Shades’ thrown in.” – review comment

Welcome to Felicity Street.

Felicity Street is a short road – only about five blocks long – in Buxton Park, an impoverished suburb dating from the war era located just to the west of Johannesburg.  In 2024, it’s derelict and ruinous, three decades past its sell-by date.

But it is not 2024.  It is the year 2000, and in three of the houses of Felicity Street (and one further down the road on the corner of Jasmin Street and Manser Avenue), four friends — Belinda, Percy, Kevin & Celeste — wake up to the biggest day of their young life (so far): the first day of high school, and the start of a four-part teen / young adult novel series titled ‘The Felicity Street Annals’, with part one launching on 30 May 2024.

So, what are The Felicity Street Annals about?  Well, at last count, about 650,000 words.  It is by far my most ambitious work to date, and how it came to be is a story worth telling.

On 30 May 2018 (the launch date of Felicity Street is no coincidence), I launched my first novel, Discovering Leigh.  I was, and still am, proud of that book.  However, it is my debut work, and it reads like a debut work.  It is obviously the work of a novice novelist who needs to get a lot more work under his belt, but it is not a bad book and has impacted many lives.  I know because I had the teary-eyed conversations, the heartfelt emails, the ‘thank you’ DMs sent to me by strangers.  As far as my dreams of ‘writing a book one day’ go, Discovering Leigh was my ‘job done’ moment.  Everything – anything – after Leigh would be a bonus.

Fast forward to May 2022, and I’m doomscrolling on Facebook – as I do — when I come across a post from one of my pals who just happened to be a beta reader for Discovering Leigh.  She’s a teacher —teaches eighth-grade English and history — and in this post she asked for book donations for a library she wants to start in her class.  Me and my big mouth chirp something along the lines of “I’d donate a few copies of Discovering Leigh, but I’m not sure that is quite suited to your audience.  She chuckles and says, “No, I think I’d keep that one to myself.”  I change from smart-mouth to philosophical, saying, “You know, I wish I had a book like Discovering Leigh when I was 13, 14 years old to tell me I’m normal.  It would have saved me decades of anxiety and years of therapy.”  Then she replied with words which changed everything.

The Felicity Street Annals - Book 1: First Day iPad and paperback“Then why don’t you write one?”

Those words, gentle reader, were the catalyst of what came to be an expansive adventure of four friends dealing with everything life can throw at four teenagers.  Bullies, academic pressure, overbearing parents, snarky teachers, the aches, and pains of young love, bodily changes, and coming to grips with your sexuality.  Not to mention a boatload more.

That very afternoon, I started to work on a brand-new manuscript which had not been conceived until the seed was planted an hour or two previously.  It just landed in my lap, and I got ensnared in the tumultuous and beautiful — and petrifying! — creative process of birthing something from scratch.

Predictably, nothing went as planned.  The adventures of the kids of Felicity Street were meant to be one thing, but it grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me along from an afternoon in May to a few hours before the Qatar FIFA World Cup Final in December.  My father was coming over to watch the footie final, but I was in the throes of finishing the first draft of the manuscript.  The FIFA final and Messi could wait, the final of Felicity Street was upon me!  In seven months, I smashed out over half a million words in an epic ride I never saw coming!  Then, I spent the next year rewriting it.  And the next three months polishing the first volume.  And now we’re here!  (And I still have half a million words of volumes II, III, and IV to polish!)

So, seriously, what is it about?  It’s no Famous Five, Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  There’s no mystery to solve, no killer to catch, no supernatural clown to face off in the sewers.  It is purely a character-driven story, more soap opera than action flick, more rom-com than crime thriller.  It’s about people.  Just four kids who stumble through life as they try to find their feet and come to grips with who they are.  Characters who I made as real and authentic as this writer could make them.  Beautiful, flawed, beautifully flawed, all of them with their own dreams, their own desires, their own secrets.  They laugh, fight, bicker, play, get in trouble, get punished, goof off, and get to play hooky.  They deal with adolescent pressures and pleasures.  It’s just… life!

But the key lies in that line I said to my friend back in May 2022: “I wish I had a book like Discovering Leigh when I was 13.”  These books have a strong undercurrent of the central theme of Discovering Leigh.  It’s their raison d’etre.  Many of the themes in Discovering Leigh recur in the Felicity Street series, but on a different level.  There are several character overlaps between Leigh and Felicity Street, to such an extent that an unkind reading would say there is an element of self-plagiarism in these books.  Maybe, but that was never the intention.  It’s only that I found the kids of Felicity Street such an interesting canvas to explore the concepts laid out in Discovering Leigh, and the story just took me where it took me.  I’m no longer a ‘debut’ novelist; I’ve grown, and the topics of Leigh have had six years to simmer and mature and can be given a more nuanced exploration.

This now leaves me with a dilemma.  Who is my target audience?  Every scene in these books is written from the perspective of a 13/14-year-old kid, and it revolves around friendship.  That’s where the “It’s like ‘It’ but without the scary clown” bit comes in.

However, the topics these kids discuss is the discovery of adult desires.  That’s where the “a hint of ‘50 Shades’” comes in.  There’s nothing explicit in these books.  This is not Kids or Class of 1984.  It’s still innocent.  And yet it deals with ‘grown up’ topics in what I hope to be a considered and sensitive approach, and is age appropriate.  I had these thoughts and desires at high school age.  Heck, I had them since pre-school!  I was a strange and odd boy who turned into a troubled teen who, in turn, grew into a confused young adult.  It was only in my late 20s when I finally found out I wasn’t fricking nuts!  I’m just a regular dude with a bit of (okay, a lot of) a kink.  It would have saved me years of agony and a fortune on therapy bills if somebody just took a 12-year-old Gerry and told him it’s okay to have these thoughts.

I hope my books can do that.

And if The Felicity Street Annals can help a confused kid or two make peace with who or what they are, that’ll be mission accomplished.  And if it can entertain millions more, then I’ll take that, too!

And, oh, it has a killer 80s & 90s soundtrack!  (Which, for copyright reasons, I cannot print, but the playlist will be available!)

The first book of the Felicity Street Annals, titled “First Day” is now available on on both Kindle ($5.99) and paperback ($12.99).