REVOLUTION - When I was at university a number of years ago (!) there was quite a bit of student unrest. Being a student, I was involved with it. Well, I was on the sidelines, but I was friends with the protesters. We all staged a march through town to hold a meeting. But before the meeting could take place, someone threw an egg at a policeman, and all hell broke loose. The police dived into the crowd to find the culprit, and together with my friend, I ran back to college. I was terrified.
I don’t apologise for being a coward. But from that day onwards I’ve been fascinated by the way protests can go wrong, and how easy it is to get caught up in crowd hysteria. You know what I mean – the way you feel different when you’re at a concert or football match – as if you lose your own identity and become just a limb of the crowd. That can be a very good feeling – or a very dangerous one.
That’s what Revolution is really about. But it’s also a love story. How can you have a novel without a love story? And a revolution is the best possible setting for a love story, because feelings are that much more intense. Both Beth and Nate have good personal reasons for wanting to be involved in a protest movement. Their school is being shut down mid-year. They want to save it. That’s good – but it’s also dangerous …
CLOSE - UP - It was just after the pressure group Fathers For Justice staged one of their publicity stunts - I forget which one - that I got thinking about dads and sons. Not that I’m either, but I was struck by how fierce a father’s love can be for a child. And the lengths to which they go to keep them ... And I’m thinking ...what if ... what if a loving father turned out NOT to be the sort of father a teenager would like to have.
And so Close-up was born.
PARALYSED - Two summers ago I was in Birmingham visiting some libraries. At lunch I was chatting with a librarian who was training for the London Marathon to raise funds for a paralysed friend. As I left the restaurant, I knew that my next teen novel was going to be about how spinal cord injury affects both victims and those closest to them.
Yes, it was as sudden as that. That’s the way inspiration strikes. It’s partly a magic thing, but also a moment of recognition – but when a novel wants you to write it, there’s generally a few good reasons.
SOMETHING WICKED - Anna is a normal Year 11 schoolgirl, a bit of a loner, but otherwise, just like you. One day a new boy turns up during an English lesson – Craig Ritchie, withdrawn, brooding, from the wrong side of the tracks. She tries to befriend him. Then one night, Anna is mugged. She fights off her attacker – and he turns out to be none other than Ritchie.
They get talking, and together decide that life is unfair. They reckon the people they know with money don’t deserve to have it, but Anna, Ritchie and the people around them have to make do with little. So why not turn the tables? And why not use crime to do it?
So Anna and Ritchie – like a modern Macbeth and Lady Macbeth – start a life of shoplifting and scams. They’re good at it. Very good. In the beginning ...
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT - A gripping thriller about a teenage boy sucked into the dark world of a cult. Eighteen-year-old Joe is bored. Stuck at home after a bout of glandular fever, all his friends have left Manchester and gone to university. When he meets Kate and Nick on the train, something about them appeals to him. So he goes to see them at their commune, a farm in rural Todmorden. Gradually, Joe’s life starts to make sense. With the White Ones he is wanted, and his life has a purpose. When he meets Bea at the farm, he really feels that his life is complete, and he decides to leave his family and live with the White Ones forever. But there is something sinister about Fletcher, the Todmorden White Ones leader. Is all as perfect as it seems?
DISCONNECTED - Catherine is a typical A-grade student from a middle class, high-achieving family, who suddenly, on entering the sixth form, loses her way. She stumbles from one situation to another, unable to work and turning to alcohol to take her mind off her problems. As she searches for answers through the varied and offbeat characters she meets, she learns a great many truths about life. Can she cope with the biggest truth of all - her own personality? Written in the first person, each chapter is addressed to someone different in Catherine’s life - her mother, a teacher, a schoolfriend etc, and reflects how Catherine is different to different people. It brilliantly reflects the pressures on young people today in a world where they haven’t got the time to grow up at their own pace. Is the face we present to the world our true self, or a carefully maintained construct?
IS HE WORTH IT? - What do you do when your best friend is going out with Mr Wrong and it’s making her life (and yours) a misery? This is the dilemma Helen finds herself in when Mish starts going out with Ryan. Suave and sophisticated he may be, but caring and consistent he is not.
WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? - When Jac discovers she has to move school in the middle of her GCSEs, she’s only a bit fed up. After all, moving from her all-girls school does have its compensations – namely men! However, when Jac starts at Markfield she finds that fitting in isn’t quite as easy as she had thought – Lisa and her gang are determined to make Jac’s life a misery. She thought it could never happen to her, but Jac finds herself the victim of a vicious bullying campaign. She must find a way to beat the bullies – but how?