A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I’m a big fan of Rachel Ward – her NUMBERS trilogy inspired me hugely when I was learning to write YA, and I absolutely devoured her last book, THE DROWNING. Today is the official release date for follow-up WATER BORN, which I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of thanks to the kind folk at Rachel’s publisher, Chicken House. It’s difficult to talk too much about WATER BORN without giving away major spoilers, but I absolutely loved it – just like Rachel’s previous novels, it gripped me from start to finish, and I’m really pleased to be interviewing her about the book today.
Hi Rachel, congratulations on the publication of WATER BORN! Can you tell our blog readers a bit about the book?
Water Born can be read on its own, but readers of The Drowning will get extra thrills as the truth seeps out …
‘Nic, a promising swimmer, doesn’t understand why her Dad is scared of water and obsessed with a spate of drownings in the news. When she starts hearing a voice in the pool she keeps it a secret, not knowing that the past is reaching through the water and may pull her under.’
What inspired you to write this story?
I had originally thought of The Drowning as a one-off, but halfway through writing it I had an idea for a follow-up, not a straight sequel, more of a ‘companion book’. The Drowning is a very dark, rainy sort of book and I had a vision of a long-hot-summer book, the colour of swimming pools and bleached out grass.
Weather and climate seem to be characters in their own right – how did this come about?
I’d always wanted to write a rainy book, which I did with The Drowning. In fact, water grew in significance as that book was drafted and redrafted so that it did effectively become another character. I like the way weather can set the tone for a scene or even a whole book, and with Water Born I wanted a similar but opposite feeling – an oppressively hot summer, where your mouth is always dry and your clothes are soaked with sweat.
What was your favourite bit about writing Water Born?
With this book, I really enjoyed ‘meeting’ and writing about the characters, including the secondary ones. I’d met some of them before, but it was interesting to see how they had changed and developed over the years. I got particularly fond of some of my new characters. They’re incredibly real to me, and it’s almost disappointing to remind myself that they only exist on the page and I’m not going to bump into them when I’m out and about.
What did you find the hardest?
As always, structuring the book was a big challenge – making sure the plot rattles along, makes sense and doesn’t sag anywhere. About halfway through I had an incredibly useful planning session with my lovely editor, Imogen Cooper, where we reviewed what I’d done so far and thought about how the book might shape up. Turns out, when it comes to plotting, she is even more ruthless and fiendish than me!
Does Water Born have a theme song?
Not really. Sometimes particular songs attach themselves to my books as I’m working on them, but it didn’t happen this time. (With Numbers, it was Amy Winehouse’s ‘Love is a Losing Game’. With The Chaos, the second Numbers book, it was Kate Bush’s ‘The Man with the Child in his Eyes’).
What does your dream writing day look like?
Ideally, I write during the morning and wildly exceed my word target for the day (I try to do at least 1000 words a day), so that I can do something else in the afternoon with a clear conscience (walk the dog, paint, snooze). On a really good writing day, I’m so excited about the book that I forget about counting words and just write and write until I need a loo/crisp/Diet beverage break.
And what does your actual day look like?
Quite a lot of days are like my dream day. I was lucky in giving up my day job a couple of years ago, and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. So I relish the writing time and it’s also extra-sweet doing slightly indulgent things (going to the cinema) when other people are at work. On other days, I’m terribly slow or can’t concentrate or the day is broken up by chores/errands of my own or for other people. It’s important not beat yourself up about lack of progress on days like that. Life gets in the way sometimes, but it’s important to have a life outside writing.
And finally … what’s next?
I’m writing a science fiction/detective story – think ‘lighthouse keepers in space with a killer on the loose’. I don’t know a great deal about science fiction, so I’m winging it at the moment and really enjoying it.
Sounds fantastic! Thanks for such great answers, Rachel!
Rachel Ward grew up in Bookham, Surrey. After school she studied Geography at Durham University and combined working for a number of local authorities with raising a family. She began writing in her 30’s, starting out with short stories. One of these short stories formed the first chapter of NUMBERS, which has been published in 26 countries and was the winner of several awards including the Flemish Children and Youth Literature Prize 2011, Angus Book Awards 2010 and the Salisbury Schools Book Award 2012, as well as being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2009, the Branford Boase Award 2010 and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturepreis 2011.
The sequel to NUMBERS 2: THE CHAOS was released in June 2010 and the third and final book in the series, NUMBERS 3: INFINITY was released in June 2011.
THE DROWNING, the first book in a new series of gritty, paranormal thrillers was published in May.
Both NUMBERS and THE DROWNING have been optioned by film companies.
Rachel lives in Bath, Somerset with her husband, two children, dog and four chickens.
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember and wrote her first novel in maths lessons when she was 13. Her debut novel, dystopian thriller ACID, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, longlisted for the Branford Boase Award and was the winner of the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award. Her second novel, THE FEARLESS, was published in April 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands.