In 2012, I came across Siobhan on Twitter and I instantly became her biggest fan when I read Shipwrecked. Oh my giddy ants. By far, the best YA Fantasy book I have ever read. I’ve just recently read the second, Dark Of The Moon and once more, I’m left wanting even more.
I wanted Siobhan to speak to you all today because she’s an incredible author and person. I love her very dearly…
Every so often in life, you get asked one of those ‘is the Pope a Catholic?’ questions. A question so obvious or so downright appealing that the only suitable answer is, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ Three years ago, Iwas asked one of these questions by my publisher. They wanted to know if I’d like to write a series for them – a series that would be simultaneously developed for a television show. Er, is the Pope a Catholic?
Once I’d finished crying, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ I had to set about the serious business of writing an extended synopsis / treatment for the entire series arc. This synopsis had to be okayed by the publisher and the TV company before I would get the go ahead to write the books. Nothing like a bit of pressure to focus the mind! So, I took myself off to my local coffee shop and began some serious caffeine-fuelled plotting. (Top tip for serious plotting: do it in an A4 notepad, use mind maps, think anything goes, and allow yourself to get really messy.) By the end of the morning I’d jotted down many ideas about why and how a group of teens could end up shipwrecked on a spooky island – and I’d crossed out many ideas. But one idea remained uncrossed – voodoo. At that point, a musician friend of mine appeared in the coffee shop. I was so deep into the plotting process by then, instead of saying ‘hello’, I greeted him with ‘what do you know about voodoo?’ Thankfully, it turned out he knew quite a lot, having once toured in New Orleans. So he talked and I jotted notes and by the end of the day, I had the backstory to the island all worked out.
Psst… That’s book one ^^^
The next stage was to flesh out some characters (Top tip: characters + situation = plot). I already had the situation and once I’d worked out my characters they’d given me a load of ideas for the plot. I typed it up and sent it off and waited. And waited. I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news that the publisher and TV people liked what I’d done and I’d got the deal. My friend and I had just been walking round Richmond Park and we were in his car about to leave when the email came through on my phone. ‘I’m so happy I feel like dancing!’ I said to him. ‘Why don’t you then?’ was his reply. Two minutes later, he had the car stereo blaring and we were dancing like loonies in a South London side street. For about half an hour! It was magical.
Then began the hard slog of writing the first two books in the series. Shipwrecked was my first attempt at a thriller and it was a real challenge at first to write something spooky. But pretty soon I started to really enjoy it. It was like playing a game with my imaginary reader – all the time thinking, what would really freak them out at this point? How could I really shock and surprise them here. (Top tip for coming up with twists: write the first draft, then look over it and think, what would be the biggest shock I could deliver at the end? Then rewrite it, incorporating that twist. Apparently, Agatha Christie did this with all of her books).
If you haven’t guessed, that’s book two ^^^
And writing a series of books in conjunction with a TV company was a real learning curve too. Like being told not to kill off any of the main characters too soon or no big name actor would want to play that part. I’ve also learned that things move really slowly in the TV world. The second book in the series, Dark of the Moon is about to be published but the show is still in development. This isn’t a problem though, as the books will be relaunched as and when the TV show airs.
In summary, it’s been a really interesting and fun experience and to any budding writers reading this, it’s a great example of how you never quite know where your writing journey will take you. It took me to a spooky island for a couple of years, which is something I never could have forseen at the beginning of my career.