The warrior within: Libby Butler


TSW_CoverA successful author friend of mine recently advised me to write a review of my book since the paperback version is being re-released in July by my wonderful publishers Urbane Publications.
Now writing a review of one’s own book feels a bit odd to me, since I will naturally show bias towards the story, characters, writing and overall enjoyment of the novel.
That said, we all read in different ways. Some of us skim read, flicking through the pages for the action scenes and missing much of the subtleties of the story and the clever play on words. Some, on the other hand, practically count the words, immersing themselves into the world the author has created.
In literary critiques, we try and get into the author’s head; attempting to find a purpose for the themes, the ways in which the characters behave and somehow link it all to the writer’s personal reasoning.
The Sleeping Warrior wasn’t born out of some counter-cultural crisis in my life nor is it based on anyone or any particular experience from a shadowy past. It just happened and I have heard a lot of writers say the same thing – start writing and the book will write itself.
Since authors like writing books they themselves would like to read, I think a selfie review would be counter-productive. I am therefore going to showcase the major character, Libby Butler, whose tale brings out the underlying themes to the main story arc: courage, introspection and existentialism.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some fabulous five star reviews from independent reviewers who empathised with the characters, loved the twists and turns of the storyline and also praised my writing skills – what more could an author want?
I also noticed that some reviewers dropped stars because they couldn’t invest in the characters: mainly because they simply didn’t like them.
We all are blessed with good and tainted with bad traits of character. Sometimes life causes people to lose their way and it can take anything between a gentle prod to a catastrophic chain of events to see ourselves as others do. We all have a few redeeming qualities that will forgive the uglier parts of our characters.
This is the lesson of The Sleeping Warrior: fear is a dark place to be lost but everyone is capable of finding the warrior inside themselves, which is courage and the ability to familiarise with that person we see inside the mirror.

Libby Butler

The concept for The Sleeping Warrior started with a character: Libby Butler, the acerbic young lawyer whose poor choices in life are beginning to hurt.

Libby’s background:

Twenty eight years old, Liberty Belle Butler was brought up on the rural outskirts of Stirling, Scotland. When her mother died, her father moved to London where Libby took her law degree. She remained in London after her father relocated to Edinburgh and, after qualifying as a solicitor, she took articles at a leading city law firm Gore, Matthews and Bottomley where she has remained, spending her years working up to the position of senior solicitor. Like all young solicitors, she has ambitions to become a partner. Libby has had a five-year relationship with social worker Tony Ridout and they live together in a second floor flat in South East London. The highly motivated Ms Butler, however, is having an affair with her boss Carl Bottomley but the relationship, like her work, is going stale. Libby’s mental health became poor after she was stalked and almost caught by and man who the police believe to be the elusive serial murderer they call The Vampire Killer. She has since developed a fear of the dark and holds distorted views of her body.

Libby’s character:

Libby is temporarily incapable of significant empathy towards others, being too immersed in her own troubles and misguided ambitions to properly respond to the needs of those closest to her. She is not a bad person, she is just a victim of city living. She is blinded by aspiration and her determination for success is driven by her own perceived personal failings, which are legion.
Libby’s main problem is that she is an ordinary woman working in a profession which requires extraordinary qualities in which to succeed. Her shortcut to success – the affair with her boss – has failed to deliver her hopes.

“For the past two years, Carl had been the sole object of Libby Butler’s clandestine desires; the place where all her ambitions had come to reside in comfort. She targeted him as the golden goal of her forthcoming future success in both love and career and now her dreams had been torn apart by a woman who was younger, more beautiful and much slimmer than she.”

The nature of her work requires a willingness to act against her conscience and has caused an internal conflict that is impossible to reconcile.
Like many people who blame poor choice on bad fortune, Libby is left unhappy, frustrated and angry with the world and everyone inside it.

“Dragging herself from the soft sofa, she stumbled through to the bedroom, the wine bottle clutched tightly in her hand. She slumped down on the stool at the vanity and objectively observed its crowded surface. She saw herself in the mirror and dared to look deeper.
“Staring back at Libby Butler was a worn out, twenty eight-year-old woman whose prime had already peaked and the dip on the eligibility chart was plummeting towards ‘not a chance’.
“Her hair was too long, too unruly and in desperate need of a freshen-up of colour. Her brown eyes, normally flecked with vibrant green, were dulled with the exhaustion of simply trying to exist. Her skin was pale, almost grey, and her lips pursed in indignation — for what cause, she could no longer remember. What was far worse, she was busting out of her size fourteen blouse. She rubbed at her eyes and forehead, as if to massage some enthusiasm back into her worn-out expression.
“Libby had always been one of those fortunate individuals who could honestly attest that she was unfamiliar with depression. She believed that to fill her life with enthusiasm and positive thinking would keep the demons of negativity at bay.
“The reflection before her, however, was lifeless with despair. If the eyes were truly windows to the soul, then Libby’s were showing large cracks that let the rain in.

“She took another glug from the bottle and believed that the night had few terrors in comparison to the heartless light of day.”

Her near-death encounter with a serial killer has had a devastating impact on her life and on her perceptions of reality. Libby has become afraid, not only of life but also of herself and what the city has forced her to become.
Her natural wit and keen intelligence are hidden behind a twisted mask of sarcasm that she readily unleashes, often on the undeserving and always on her competitors. But this humour is merely a shield to disguise her naturally clumsy antics and feelings of self-doubt and inferiority amongst her peers.

Libby’s epiphany:

When Libby is called to a Metropolitan police station in the middle of the night to represent a ‘foreigner’ in custody as duty solicitor, the remaining fragments of the life she knows are scattered. The enigmatic Gabriel Radley is bewildering but strangely compelling. Through a series of disturbing events, Gabriel forces her to face her fears as well as herself and is not shy in telling her exactly what he thinks:

“I do not need to see beneath the cover of your mind, Libby Butler, for you leave its pages open for all the world to read. Despite your aggressive attempts to scheme and manipulate outwith the knowledge of others, your thoughts and deeds are as transparent as the glass in these windows and far less appealing to look through.”

The Sleeping Warrior is available on Kindle now and the paperback is due to be published in July by Urbane Publications.


I spoke to Lucy Catten, one of the many well-respected, committed and talented book reviewers on Goodreads, recently who told me: “I’m drawn far more to books with a mix of really high and really low ratings than those with hundreds of mediocre ones. Far better that a story sparks strong feelings! I don’t give scores in my reviews either – I think they’re pretty pointless.” 


If that is the case, why are we authors fixated on equating the quality of our work with a quantity of stars?

I suppose it’s because authors put so much time and effort into producing their very best that they expect to be rewarded with a mark of excellence. It’s like being at school: with five gold stars, you’re at the top of the class.

With product feedback dominating the decisions in consumer choice, public opinion has usurped the long reign of the professional literary critic. Feedback for a book comes in the form of the reviewer, which is anyone and everyone, and the majority of readers aren’t interested in whether that semi-colon is in the wrong place; how many adjectives there are to a sentence; or whether the reflexive pronoun has been lexicologically murdered, they simply mark a book according to the personal experience it has given them.

There is solace for those amongst us who have received some terrible reviews of their precious works. Even the world’s greatest writers have had one-star ratings for a range of reasons, from not liking the story personally to not receiving the book on time. After a quick trawl through Amazon, the following is, from least favourite to favourite, my Top 30 list of the best (or worst) one-star reviews:

30 Emily Brontë,Wuthering Heights: “I am repelled by the absurd peregrinations of Brontë’s spiteful, petty-spirited, self-absorbed characters”
29 Paulo Coelho,The Alchemist: “Allegorical nonsense”
28 Joseph Heller,Catch-22: “… one of the most tedious, poorly-written books I’ve ever read.”
27 Yann Martel, Life of Pi: “… dull pseudo-intellectual garbage.”
26 Helen Fielding,Bridget Jones’s Diary: “For anyone concerned about the ‘dumbing-down’ of humanity, here it is in all its glory.”
25 Irvine Welsh,Trainspotting: “I have no idea if this is a good story because I became bored and frustrated trying to translate the cockney crap.”
24 Ralph Steadman, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream: “Nothing more than a drug-induced binge.”
23 John Steinbeck, East of Eden: “This book was yellow and old. I did not want to touch it and threw it away.”
22 Hubert Selby Jnr, Requiem for a Dream: “This entire book is written in ghetto/white trash dialect spelled phonetically, with minimal punctuation.”
21 Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho: “A juvenile attempt at grossing the audience out.”
20 Markus Zusak, The Book Thief: “What’s with all the color descriptions? I felt like I was working through a box of crayons.”
19 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness: “Really boring. It’s about steamboats and the ivory trade.”
18 Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls: “You spent more time wondering what the gypsies are saying than the actual story.”
17 George RR Martin, Game of Thrones: “There is no point to this soap opera. Everyone dies.”
16 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude: “… tedious, pointless, and unpleasant and all the characters are creeps.”
15 Scott Donaldson, On the Road: “Three hundred pages of whining, grousing and getting loaded.”
14 Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring: “Aside from a memorable metaphor on page one, this book is bland as a pauper’s meal of yesterday’s potatoes.”
13 Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: “… if you were interested in crazy people this is the book for you.”
12 Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast for Champions: “I’d say it was a book purposely written stupidly to appear clever.”
11 Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl: “She talks of her lady parts and its SERIOUSLY GROSS.”
10 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities: “Many words used are obsolete.”
9 John Milton, Paradise Lost: “It was so far beyond me that I embarrassed myself.”
8 Orson Scott Card, Enders Game: “… an awful lot of all male shower scenes for an author who doesn’t like gay people.”
7 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: “The creature went from hideous dumb clod to hideous Collin Firth in a matter of months via eavesdropping on some peasants.”
6 Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange: “The made-up slang words ruined the book for me.”


5 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World: “a bit too scientific for me.”
4 Herman Melville, Moby Dick: “Too nautical for me.”
3 Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire: “Being a vampire myself I can assure you that this is nothing at all like it really is. Anne Rice knows nothing of the world of darkness!”
2 Stephen King, The Shining: “got ruined for me when that Friends episode told me how it ended.”
1 George Orwell, 1984: “He doesn’t know a thing about the ’80s. Not ONCE did he mention Def Leppard or Karma Chameleon.”

You can’t win ’em all!