Today we welcome Paula Rawsthorne to the blog for a chat. Paula's first novel, The Truth About Celia Frost, came out in August and is a stunning teen thriller about a girl with a very secret past.
Since The Truth About Celia Frost was launched you seem to have been on a whirlwind tour of book signings and school visits. Is this the life you were expecting as an author or did you imagine sitting quietly at your desk all day.
I soon realised that getting your novel published is only part of the writer’s job; you also have to get out there and let people know about your book. Even pre launch there was lots to do to make sure that word spread. Authors can’t just lock themselves in their garrets anymore (even when they have a deadline looming for their second book!) Publishers like mine (Usborne) put a great deal of effort into promoting your book and you need to be part of this. Although this is all very new to me I’ve found that I’ve really been enjoying meeting readers, talking in schools, doing literary events, answering questions for bloggers etc.
What do your children think of it all?
They have always been very encouraging. When I was writing Celia Frost they used to come home daily and ask if I’d finished it yet? So now they can actually see The Truth About Celia Frost in bookshops they’re very excited.
You were ‘found’ by an agent through the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition. How does that work? Does it guarantee a book deal?
Being a winner of SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices competition opened up incredible opportunities to me. Winning doesn’t guarantee a book deal or getting an agent but it does mean that your work is chosen by a judging panel of extremely high calibre industry professionals and is then put in an anthology of winners which is sent out to all publishers and agents in the U.K. Luckily for me, Jo Unwin, an agent on the judging panel, loved my book and took me on. She is a wonderful agent and someone I may never even have met had it not been for SCBWI and Undiscovered Voices. SCBWI is a fantastic organisation and I’d recommend anyone who writes or Illustrators children’s books to join.
For that competition you only had to submit the first chapters. Did you know what Celia Frost’s secret was when you started writing or did the story change? I’ve heard that authors say that their characters take over the plot and make it suit themselves. Did this happen to anyone of yours?
Before I started writing the story, the characters of Celia and Janice Frost came to me so vividly that I knew what made them the people they were and I knew the truth about Celia Frost- this truth never changed. However, one of the exciting things about the process of writing is how your characters and plot start to evolve and sometimes this can feel like the characters are dictating to you.
You formerly had a career as a social worker and have taught in the Sudan and Israel. Did you draw on any of your experiences when writing The Truth About Celia Frost?
Inevitably your life experiences will seep into your writing whether you’re aware of it or not. For instance, in Celia Frost the Giran family were inspired by Ethiopian friends that I met in the Sudan. Even though the composition and situation of the fictional family is different to that of my friends, my intention was to capture the spirit of the family.
You tackle difficult ethical issues in the book. Do you think it’s important to engage Young Adults with questions of ethics?
I thought long and hard before using the ethical issues that emerge in my book. Ethical issues, by their very nature, can be uncomfortable and complex but I decided that this was a good reason to get young adults thinking about them and starting to form their own opinions on issues and subjects that may touch their lives at some point. It was important to me that The Truth About Celia Frost provoked thought as well as being entertaining.
And lastly, you must have plans for more novels. Can you share anything about them?
I’m busy writing my second (stand-alone) novel for Usborne. It’s another thriller and I’m really enjoying writing it. As yet I haven’t settled on the perfect title but as the plot thickens, I’m coming up with lots of ideas. The plot is spilling over with intrigue, tension and twists to keep readers on their toes. I’m hoping people are going to enjoy it!
A huge thank you, Paula, for taking time to answer our questions - and please don't keep us waiting too long for the next book!