* Congratulations, Jo, on achieving a coveted place in Undiscovered Voices 2012! and welcome to tall tales & short stories.
The floor is yours, please tell us all about yourself, your writing journey and anything else you'd like to add.
I’m a geologist – which essentially means I use my imagination quite a lot! Being a geologist is like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle. I grew up in a variety of places around England, leaving my accent wonderfully muddled, and now I live in south Oxfordshire, with beautiful countryside and a power station for inspiration.
Growing up I was addicted to books. I spent most of my childhood buried in something or other, usually imagining I was racing down the trunk of the Faraway Tree with the Saucepan Man, or thinking about what trick I would play on Mr and Mrs Twit if I had the chance (and whether I could get away with putting worms in my sister’s dinner).
But then after school came college, and after that I went to study Geology in Leeds, and forgot all about writing. But sitting on a bench in a Nottingham park one day, I felt the urge to buy a pen and a cheap notepad, and I’ve never looked back.
The first thing I wrote was a middle-grade fantasy adventure – a story I’d been carrying around in my head for a long time. But it was a first novel – and no matter how many times I edited and rewrote it, it was still a first novel. So I tried my hand at a couple of other middle-grade adventure stories – and then I discovered Meg Rosoff’s wonderful ‘How I Live Now’, and then the gripping ‘Numbers’ by Rachel Ward, and I was sold – I wanted to write for young adults.
I had the idea for Magpie after I came off the phone to my sister one day. We were living apart after spending sixteen years attached at the hip, and I wondered what would happen if two sisters were forced to live separate lives, and couldn’t find a way back.
I tried to write Magpie several times, always coming unstuck at the mystical 20,000 word mark, so I put it away in a drawer and worked on something else. Then a while later, after my sister had been bugging me for months to finish it, a friend told me to put what I was working on away, dust off Magpie and work on that because it was good, and within a few weeks I’d re-plotted and finished a first draft. Amazing what a short break, an honest opinion and an annoying sibling can do! The idea inevitably morphed as I wrote and edited away, but the theme of family, and the way they are capable of affecting each other even when they are distances apart, is still at its heart.
When I got the call from Sara Grant to say I was one of the Undiscovered Voices winners, well, I have no idea what I said. I do know I was grinning like an idiot, and I also remember racing out of a workshop I was supposed to be running at work when my phone started ringing, just in case it was Sara!
I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’m excited to find out. For now, it’s on with the next manuscript – I’m off to have fun with some new characters!
* Could you tell our readers all about your winning entry and why they are going to love it!
Magpie is the story of three people and the secret that divides them. All three tell the story: the girl who ran away, the sister she left behind, and the friend who knows the truth.
Seventeen year-old Cassie ran away from home when she discovered the truth behind her mum’s death. Staying away from home isn’t easy though, not when you’ve left your sister behind – and kept her in the dark. A year later, and Cassie’s secret is starting to eat away at her. All she wants is to see her sister again. But there is one man determined to keep her exactly where she is, and he’ll go to any length to stop her from leaving.
Back at home, her sister Rachel is struggling with her hopeless dad and her best friend, Lizzie, who is slowly shrinking away. When Matt enters her life, a boy who not only takes everything in his stride, but also manages to do that thing with his hair, Rachel finds it all too easy to distract herself from her search for Cassie.
Last but not least is Lizzie, a girl who has problems of her own. As everything starts to collapse around her, she has the one thing that nobody else does: the truth.
As history collides with the present, and truth disintegrates into lies, can any of them face the truth in time to put things right?
Magpie is a story about family, loss and the danger of secrets. It’s got a mystery at its heart, neatly wrapped up in a thriller that will hopefully have you reaching for the Kleenex before long!
...WIN a copy of Undiscovered Voices, by Working Partners & SCWBI-BI.
Your chance to read all the selected excerpts, see the fabulous illustrations
and read what the judges had to say!
WE HAVE TWO COPIES TO GIVE AWAY!
It’s easy to enter -- Here's what to do!
• Leave a comment on the blog; say hi, leave your name and tell us if you'd like to be entered for the draw.
If you want to leave your email address that's great, if not, we'll be announcing the winners after midday on the 1st March, UK time. So make sure to check in here and on twitter.
All entries go into a hat and TWO winners will be chosen at random.
Sorry, but this competition is open to UK entrants only.
Midnight 29th February 2012, UK time.