For many years, I sent my work out to agents and never made it off the slush pile.
But I never stopped writing and at the age of 40, armed with the ‘A’ levels I passed at age 18, I went back to Nottingham Trent University to hone and develop my writing skills. I now have a first-class honours degree in English & Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing.
Smart began life as a 3000-word short story for an assignment on my MA module: Writing for Children and Young Adults. When I’d finished writing the story, I felt as if I had something special and it was so well received by my MA critique workshop, that I decided to develop it into a full-length YA novel.
Within months, I had five offers of representation from London literary agents and before graduating from my MA in November 2012, I had a literary agent and a book deal. It was a fairytale…at the end of a very long road!
My debut Young Adult novel Smart was published in hardback by Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK on 5th June 2014. The paperback was published in February 2015. Smart is also scheduled for publication in Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and Turkey in 2016.
I am represented by Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Children’s Literary Agency.
Smart has been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2015, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2015, is winner of the Leeds Book Awards (11-14) 2015, winner of the St Helen’s Book Award (BASH) 2015, runner-up of the Shropshire Teen Book Award 2015 and shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015, Worcestershire Teen Book Award 2015 and the Stockport Book Awards 2015.
See ‘My Books’ for more about Smart and for updates on my second YA novel, ‘A Seven-Letter Word‘, which is published in hardback by Macmillan Children’s Books on 24th March 2016.
My YA books are set in Nottingham. It’s such a great, vibrant city that has a wonderful history of lace manufacture, Robin Hood and the world famous Trent Bridge cricket ground, to name but a few. Nottingham’s literary heritage is second to none, boasting Lord Byron, D H Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe among its Literati. The city is now a UNESCO City of Literature. Find out more about things to do in Nottingham here.
We have a thriving writing community in the city including the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
I was born in Nottingham and I live there with my husband, Mac. Between us we have a daughter and two sons – now all adults.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I can’t always reply personally and in detail to all queries as I wouldn’t have time to write 🙂 so I’m posting some of the answers below to the most frequent questions I’m asked!
I would say an important thing to remember when writing a mystery book, is not to worry TOO much at the beginning about putting in twists or how the mystery is going to resolve itself as this can be very off-putting.
I always do a rough outline when I first start writing so I know the general shape of the story and the main events that happen but I find as I get further into the writing of the book, new things occur to me and I might think of a really good twist that hadn’t even been in my thoughts right at the beginning.
Entering creative writing competitions can be a great way of boosting your confidence. Keep an eye out for competition your school might be running and Booktrust have a great section on teen writing, including a list of all competitions. Take a look around their website: www.booktrust.org.uk
In terms of inspiration, I tend to look to everyday life for my ideas. Some of the real-life stories and things that happen to people that you read about or see on the news on television can spark a really good idea off.
‘Smart’ started off with the voice of Kieran coming through loud and clear in my head and then I read in my local newspaper that an unidentified body had been found in the river. That set me off wondering what would happen if my main character found the body of a dead man in the River Trent but nobody seemed too bothered about it . . . what would he do?
How do I come up with an idea for a story? Well, Smart initially began as a short story I had to write for a university assignment. I’d had this character’s voice in my head a while (sounds mad doesn’t it?!) which is the way I usually get my ideas.
I knew the voice belonged to a boy who had a very difficult home life and I wanted to explore his problems in the short story. The mystery in the short story was just what Tony was getting up to while Kieran’s mum was at work.
Everyone in my university class really liked the story and I did too, so I decided to develop it into a full book. I live by the river and looking out at it one day I started to wonder what would happen if my character found a dead body in the River Trent …and the story built from there.
Other popular project questions!
My favourite food – macaroni cheese
My favourite place – home. But I love going on holiday abroad and in the UK, I love London, Whitby, Staithes and Sandsend.
My favourite film – Kes
My favourite book – Too many favourites to choose just one . . . sorry!
Spare time activities – reading, writing, watching films and eating out.