The idea for my novel No Stone Unturned sprang from an everyday walk in the country with my two dogs. At first, it was essentially a local story – a story about an abandoned quarry, a tragic accident in which four local men lost their lives, and the coming of the railway which brought great change to a relatively small rural community. But as I researched it, I began to discover that what I thought were local stories had a far wider impact and had links with the nation’s capital city and one of the country’s most famous buildings: the Palace of Westminster.
To me, the process of writing a book follows a similar path in that it usually starts as something very personal and solitary – hours of research, of planning time, hours spent writing first, second drafts, etc – then suddenly, on publication, your book is out there in the big wide world, having an impact on other people and reaching places you didn’t expect. It can be frightening (Will people feel as passionately about my story as I do? Will anyone like what I have written?) but it is also incredibly reassuring and rewarding. Nothing beats hearing readers telling you how much they enjoyed your book, or offering their interpretation on your characters or storyline. And of course the nice thing about writing for children and young people is how honest they are – and feedback is crucial, whether good, bad or indifferent.
Recently, No Stone Unturned has been shortlisted for three awards. Yesterday I was at the Warwickshire Junior Book Awards organised by the wonderful Warwickshire School Library Service. The award ceremony was held at the Spa Centre in Leamington Spa and was attended by hundreds of local school children, their teachers, school librarians and my three fellow shortlisted authors: Tom Avery for My Brother’s Shadow, Rohan Gavin for Knightley & Son and Ali Sparkes for Destination Earth. We all gave a short talk about our shortlisted book before the winner was announced – and congratulations to Ali Sparkes for taking the prize. What is lovely about this award is that it is voted for by the young readers themselves and it was great to meet so many of them at the book signing after the ceremony.
No Stone Unturned was also one of the final 12 shortlisted titles for the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award (Secondary category). Sadly I have just heard that it did not win, but it was amazing to be on the shortlist and I would like to congratulate Mary Hooper whose First World War story Poppy (published by Bloomsbury) was chosen by the young voters.
Finally, in May I gave a talk at Alcester Grammar School to pupils from that school as well as from Alcester Academy and St Benedict’s Roman Catholic School who were all voting in the Alcester Schools Book Award 2015. Again, No Stone Unturned made it to the shortlist and I am delighted to say that it was runner-up to the best-selling The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
It’s lovely to think that a story that formed in my head while on an everyday dog walk has been recognised in this way by these three awards. Thank you to everyone who nominated, read and voted for the book and to all the dedicated book award organisers for everything that you do. Much appreciated!