When did you start writing?
I started writing short stories and novels 12 years ago. I wrote two novels for children which were rejected by every agent and publisher I sent them to. So, it was third time lucky with ‘Numbers.’
Did you write stories as a child?
I was quite good at English at school, but I didn’t pursue it. I did Geography and Science A-levels, and a Geography degree.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
My ideas come from all over the place – everyday life, TV, films, other books, dreams.
Are you an avid reader? What are your favourite books / who are your favourite authors?
I’m an avid reader now, but I didn’t read novels at all when I was a teenager. I just lost interest. Back then (thirty years ago) there wasn’t such a thing as ‘teen or young adult literature’ whereas now there are dedicated sections in bookshops and libraries for teenagers, which I think is a good thing – a way to bridge the gap between children’s and adult books. I read teen books and adult books now and have enjoyed books by Philip Pullman, Melvin Burgess and Kevin Brooks to name but a few. My favourite authors for adults include Anne Tyler, Alexander McCall Smith, Rose Tremain, Rohinton Mistry, Nick Hornby, Catherine O’Flynn and Stef Penney.
Tell me about Numbers and its plot / where the idea came from? How long did it take to write? How did you set about getting a publisher?
‘Numbers’ is a book for teenagers and young adults, although I think a lot of adults would enjoy it as well. It’s the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Jem, who can see a number when she looks in someone’s eyes – the date of their death. She gets involved with a boy at school, Spider, who she knows only has a couple of months to live. On a day out in London, Jem notices that people in the queue for the London Eye have the same number, and it’s today…
It’s a thriller, but it’s also a love story. The idea came to me on one of my early morning dog walks. I was influenced by Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ in which a girl has an extraordinary gift. It made me think about how someone with a gift would fare in the UK today. I was also fascinated by the TV series ‘Six Feet Under’ which was set in a funeral home and featured a death scene at the start of each episode with a name and date of death on screen. It made me think that there is a date out there that will apply to each of us. Would it make any difference if we knew it? Turning 40 also made me ponder mortality, and as I was thinking about it quite a bit, I thought that perhaps I should write about it. Maybe it was therapy and I was writing my way through my mid-life crisis!
It took 6 months to write the initial draft and 6 months to edit. I found my publisher, The Chicken House in Frome, through the Frome Festival. As part of the Festival, you could book a slot with their fiction editor to get advice on your work. I sent in a synopsis and first chapter beforehand, and when I met Imogen Cooper of The Chicken House, she said she loved it! It was one of the most exciting days of my life.
Have you had anything published before?
I won a local writers prize at the Frome Festival 2006 with a short story that turned into the first chapter of ‘Numbers.’ That was published on the web, but I haven’t had anything in print before.
Where and when do you write?
I can write pretty much anywhere, although my best time of day is early on before everyone else is awake and I’ve got some peace and quiet.
Do you find writing hard work?
Writing isn’t hard work at all. It’s fun! I love it! If it ever gets to the stage where I don’t enjoy it any more, I’ll stop, but for now I love playing with ideas, getting a first draft down, and then editing.
See also other interviews:
Author profile on The Chicken House website
Interview on So Many Books So Little Time blog