A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today, we’re wishing fellow Author Allsort Candy Harper a very Happy Book Birthday! The second book in her hilarious and hugely popular ‘Faith’ series is out today. ‘Keep The Faith’ (Simon and Schuster) carries on from where book one ‘ Have a Little Faith’ left off. So for those of you-like me- who’ve been waiting since last summer for the next instalment of shenanigans, the wait is over. And blimey, is it worth it!
After racing through ‘Keep The Faith’, I chatted to Candy about chocolate, creative writing courses and teaching. (But mostly about chocolate.)
Get ready for boy dilemmas, friendship dramas and madcap grannies – Faith is back!
Will Faith make up her mind between the gorgeous Finn and the lovely Ethan and manage to get herself a real-life boyfriend? Will Mrs Cox finally get off her case and recognise Faith’s true genius? Will Faith’s family learn how to be normal, non-embarrassing people? Will Faith and her BFFs beat the world record for number of biscuits eaten in a minute?
All these questions and more will be answered in the hilarious next installment of this brilliant new series from Candy Harper!
Emma Carroll: The book starts with Faith talking about her dreams. What ambitions did you have when you were Faith’s age?
Candy Harper: By the time I was Faith’s age I had finally cast off my childhood ambition of wanting to be Daphne from Scooby Doo and had come to the vague conclusion that I might do something sciencey (as Faith’s mum would say) but what I actually dreamed about was sitting around eating biscuits, reading children’s books and writing my own stories. And here I am. It’s like a fairy tale come true. The kind of fairy tale where the princess wears a hoody covered in felt tip pen stains and baby-snot every day because there’s no dress code in my kitchen. It’s truly magical.
EC: The teachers in your book are uncannily well observed. As a ex-teacher yourself, what experiences did you draw on, if any?
CH: When I quit my teaching job to concentrate on writing I felt that the kids had done a lot more taking than giving, in fact, I drew a little diagram of vampire children draining the very life out of me as part of my letter of resignation. But actually it turned out that the students had given me more than cluster headaches and ringworm; they’ve provided me with tons of really good material. Having said that, a lot of the scenes in the Faith books are drawn from when I was a student rather than a teacher. The pig’s heart thing really happened.
EC: The novel is written in a diary format: did you keep a diary as a teenager? Was it easier or harder to write a series of novels in this format?
CH: I did keep a diary. My blush is radioactive at the very thought of it. It was terrible. Let’s keep this to ourselves.
Writing in the diary format works quite well for me because the structure of a school term with weekends and holidays helped me plan what would happen when. What’s difficult with diaries is working out exactly how your protagonist is going to convey what’s been happening without it sounding like a report. Also, I was quite keen to avoid sounding like my teenage self. What a whiner.
EC: ‘Keep The Faith’ is full of strong female characters- Faith herself, her best friends, her teachers, her relatives ( especially Gran, who I LOVE!). What can female- and male- readers learn from your book?
CH: I really wanted to write a book about a teenage girl whose world doesn’t revolve around boys and also where the girls weren’t in competition with each other. I hope that the female friendships remind girls (and boys) of the brilliant variety of relationships we get to form as teenagers (and beyond).
EC: Which character was the easiest to write? Which was the most difficult?
CH: It’s fair to say that Faith’s teacher, Mrs Webber, and her acerbic approach to her students, isn’t entirely unlike my own, so she was quite easy to write. I probably put the most time into writing the boys. I wanted them to be distinct individuals rather than a homogenous pack.
EC: We met as students on the Writing For Young People MA at Bath Spa Uni in 2009. How much did the course help in your journey to publication? Do you think writing can be taught?
CH: Those were the days, hey?
I definitely think there’s a lot a person can be taught about writing, but learning about writing is only one of the elements that goes into writing well. I think you need to read a lot, you need a ton of criticism and you need to practice. I think the MA provided us with all that. I don’t know about you, but I consider it instrumental in my path to publication.
I love it that Faith has a healthy relationship with chocolate. Name your top three chocolate bars and why.
CH: I thought I said you weren’t allowed to ask me any difficult questions! Okay, in third place is the Mars Bar. It’s just a classic combination. In second place the now sadly retired Spira. It was a bit like a Twirl, but more hollow, which meant you could drink milk through them like a straw. Don’t pretend you don’t like the sound of edible straws. First place goes to Chocuer Hazelnut Crunch which is a tiny bar of chocolate in a green wrapper from Aldi. A pack of five costs £1.39. Yep, really. And since they’re doll-sized you are completely allowed to eat all five at once.
EC: That ending…. Any hints as to what the future holds for Faith?
CH: Trouble. That’s all I’m saying.
CJ Harper grew up in a tiny house with a big family. She is the fourth of five sisters, which means she still eats with her arm shielding her plate. There are enough Children’s and YA books in CJ’s house to build a fort with. But she absolutely hasn’t ever skived off work to do that.
When she isn’t writing, Emma Carroll teaches English part-time at a secondary school in Devon. She has also worked as a news reporter, an avocado picker and the person who punches holes into filofax paper. She recently graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ is Emma’s debut novel for Faber. Told in the distinctive voice of Tilly Higgins, it was inspired by a winter’s day from Emma’s childhood. Currently, Emma is working on her second novel. It is set in a Victorian circus. In another life she wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. Emma lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and two terriers.