* Congratulations, Rachel, 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.
Hello and thanks for the congratulations!
I think I was about five or six years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. My sister and I were playing schools. She was the teacher and I was the pupil. She started to read a book to me as part of the game. It just so happened to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Well, we both forgot about the game because we got so engrossed in the story – she ended up reading the whole thing to me. I loved it – the whole magical world of talking animals and Narnia and always being winter and never Christmas. Soon, we were both hooked on the whole series of Narnia books. It was around this time that I decided that I would like to be a writer when I grew up. The world of story seemed a fascinating and exciting world to me.
I grew up in Devon and Cornwall, an environment I always found very inspiring for the stories I loved to write at school and in my spare time. I remember I used to like writing poems about the sea as well – I could fill a whole notebook with them! In the 1990s, I moved to Salford to do a degree in English Literature at the university there. It was quite a change! I swapped beaches and green fields for tower block buildings and factories. It was like stepping into a Lowry picture. I loved it. A whole new environment to inspire me and my stories.
It didn’t quite work out like that though. Between discovering exactly how amazing books really are on my degree course and discovering more shops, clubs and pubs than I’d ever been used to before, I didn’t get much writing done! After university I got myself a teaching qualification and got a job at a sixth form college in Manchester. I also managed to acquire three children in the space of a year! This was due to my stepchildren coming to live with me and their Dad, plus our own daughter being born soon after. As you might imagine, I didn’t do much writing at all that year!
Having young children in the house made me re-discover my love of children’s books though. I remember reading them the Harry Potter books, thinking ‘let’s see what all this hype is about.’ I soon found myself sneaking the books out of their room and staying up late at night reading them all with the same kind of excitement I’d had for the Narnia books years before.
As the children began to get older, I realised if I really wanted to be a writer and fulfill my childhood ambition, I’d better get started. I would wait until the kids were in bed and then begin. I started off with short stories first, entering small competitions. I had a bit of luck with one of them and won a hundred pounds. It felt really good to spend that money! However – my attempts at writing a novel for adults were awful. I would inevitably give up, disillusioned, before I’d even properly begun.
One day I decided to try my hand at a children’s novel. If I liked reading them so much, I might be able to do it, I thought to myself. I decided I would just do one page and see what happened. It was the best writing decision I think I’ve ever made. I really enjoyed writing that one page and I knew that I had to try more. That one page eventually turned into my first completed novel, Soul Warrior, set in nineteenth century Cornwall.
Not long after this, I began an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. It was a great experience where I learnt a great deal about the craft and met some great people. It was also the time when I started my second novel, which eventually became Touch.
Last summer, I decided to enter the opening of Touch for the Undiscovered Voices competition run by the SCBWI, which I had just joined. I very nearly didn’t enter but am so glad that I did! It’s a real honour to be selected alongside so many talented writers.
* Could you tell our readers all about your winning entry and why they are going to love it!
Touch is a supernatural thriller aimed at children of eleven upwards. It follows the story of a fifteen year old ghost, Kwame, who haunts the streets of Manchester. He’s pulled into a criminal gang of ghosts headed by the daunting figure of Crow Mancet, who forces Kwame to do what he wants by threatening to harm his family. The story follows his attempt to break free from Crow’s clutches whilst keeping his family safe. This struggle is made much more difficult by the discovery of Kwame’s very special gift, however – the ability to Touch.
I first got the idea for the novel when I went to see a production of Macbeth at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester. It was set in modern times and the witches were presented as children, ghostly figures who stood on the outskirts of scenes, witnessing the violence and turmoil that took place. It just put an image of child ghosts in a contemporary setting inside my head and I couldn’t shake it out! I remember walking around the Arndale Centre afterwards, formulating the first seeds of the story in my head and feeling really excited!
I’ve certainly had lots of fun writing it and I’ve enjoyed creating a ghostly Mancunian underworld. I really hope other people will enjoy reading it too some day!
...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.