From a PhD thesis to a brave new novel, local author Sophie Masson’s upcoming book release, ‘The Ghost Squad’ continues to take on an exciting life of its own.

Known and loved around Australia particularly for her children’s books, Sophie says the unique process for creating her latest young adult fiction novel gave her the space and opportunity to try some bold new things.

“Because I had the time and space over the three years of my PhD at UNE, I was able to fully develop a complex, disturbing and intriguing world in which the story plays out,” she says.

“It’s centred around a theme which I found fascinating, had thought about before, but never written about: the theme of the afterlife.”

With more than 70 books in print, Sophie is no stranger to the publishing process or writing to deadlines. However, she says this manuscript, completed in 2018, uniquely benefited from the rigorous PhD research process and continuous feedback and input from her supervisors.

“Writing this novel stretched me as an author. It allowed me to fully and carefully develop the story, characters and world of the book and expose it to sophisticated readers – my supervisors – as I was writing it, which is not something I do usually.

“Through the research process I was able to explore themes around the afterlife and the very different images and manifestations of it in cultures around the world as well as in literature and screen narratives, which enriched the novel.”

“I think what I’ve especially taken from the process is to keep asking myself questions, just as my supervisors did, such as: Why am I doing it this way? How will I make this clear? What is the relevance of this particular section, character or scene?”

She says the expertise and support of her supervisors created “exactly the right stimulating and encouraging conditions” to complete the work to a standard ready for a publisher.

The manuscript has been acquired by MidnightSun Publishing and will be available for new and existing fans of Sophie’s work from February 2021.

“I hope readers will find the novel exciting, gripping and entertaining, but also that as well as being entertaining, they will find it thought-provoking, as they plunge into a world both similar to yet spookily different from our own,” Sophie says.