What did you begin with; the characters or the sense of the driving force of the story? This is so tricky to answer. It is different for every book, and it is hard to put into words that first, mystical flicker of inspiration. With Archie, it was a number of things. The location was important. I walk my dog by a train track, crossing it several times, always surprised and a bit unnerved by how easy it would be to not get off the track when the signal turned from red to green. The rumble of the trains accompanied my thoughts for many long hours, and slowly, the vague outline of a story about a boy who lives by a track and is tempted to do the unthinkable started to emerge. I had also, somewhere, had an idea for a book that began with a boy and a girl going to a bridge to commit suicide on the very same morning. What would they do? What would they say? Would they still feel a duty to save each other, even if they were about to die themselves? Some of these questions found their answers in The Last Days of Archie Maxwell. One thing I can say for sure is that I am not a plotter. I don't like to have a hard and fast plan when I write. I rely much more on feel and instinct, and allow the characters to drive the story as much as possible.
Is this the first novella length story that you’ve written? It is, and I absolutely loved the experience. It was wonderful to get the chance to focus on something smaller, where each word, and the position of each word, has a huge part to play. It felt a little like writing poetry at times.
I used to be an English teacher, so I have seen first-hand how daunting reading can be for many students. If words are frightening, picking up a book crammed full of them is a huge ordeal. But stories are for everyone. And everyone, no matter what their reading ability, has the right to access good stories, and hard-hitting stories, which aren't dumbed down in anyway. That's what Barrington Stoke represent and I was honoured to be asked to write for them.
What is your writing day like? Unfortunately there is no such thing! I am a mum of two boys (3 and 1) so my life is happily chaotic at present. I squeeze my writing in wherever I can, so I find myself writing at 4am, or midnight, or during nap times, or at the weekend when my husband takes our sons swimming. It is a tough juggling act, sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
All about The Last Days of Archie Maxwell (13+) by Annabel Pitcher is a super readable YA novella - Dads leave home all the time. It's not that unusual, really. Leon's dad walked out. So did Mo's. But Archie's? Well, that's a different story - a story that Archie must keep secret at all cost. Archie knows he should accept Dad for who he is, so he hides his turmoil until he can stand it no longer. With nowhere else to turn, he finds himself at the railway track. The track has been calling to him, promising escape, release. The only problem is, it's been calling to someone else too...
To read an extract ahead of publication on 1st November, click here.
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