A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
The Misper is the thrilling new YA novel by Bea Davenport, published by Conrad Press.
“I knew this girl, you see. A sort of a friend. No one thought she really mattered much, but that turned out to be a mistake. Because she blew a hole through my life – and the lives of everyone I knew.”
Congratulations on the new book, Bea. Tell us a bit about it?
The central character is Anna – she’s started a new school after her parents’ divorce and she’s feeling pretty vulnerable. She can’t believe her luck when she teams up with smart, cool, goth Zoe. But then there’s Kerry – that geeky kid that no one really wants to hang about with them. Anna’s torn – she’s sorry for Kerry, but she doesn’t want to jeopardise her friendship with Zoe. With Zoe’s prompting, the girls turn to dark magic to try to get control of their lives – and at first, it looks like it’s working. But then Kerry goes missing – and the girls have to deal with the consequences of their actions.
What inspired the story?
There is a real-life inspiration for it – but it’s a long way from what happens in the book! When I was a little girl, me and a best mate got into trouble when we planned a Halloween party for a younger friend. We were trying to be nice, but it got completely misinterpreted and we were accused of trying to frighten her. I started writing a story loosely based on this incident, but it soon became clear that it could be much more interesting if the characters were older and the events a lot darker. So it morphed into something quite far removed from my own experience in the end.
Did it take a lot of research?
I also write crime novels and as a former journalist, I’m quite familiar with police procedures, but I certainly had to do a bit of research into what happens when a teenager goes missing – how quickly the police would take it seriously and who they would target for their initial investigations. I also did a bit of research into the kind of magic that Zoe and Anna try out – it involved quite a scary book about invoking the spirits of the dead to help you out!
Is the magic real or is it just in Anna and Zoe’s heads?
Now that is something I really want the readers to decide for themselves. It could work either way. Maybe the events would have come about anyway and they’re just a string of coincidences – and if you’re a sceptical person, that would make sense. Maybe Anna was so traumatised, she imagined things. Or maybe the magic rituals invoked something truly powerful and out of control. You decide!
Your earlier novels have been for younger readers and for middle-grade readers. What was different about writing for teenager readers?
I always think about readership very carefully. I read a great book by J.A. Appleyard called Becoming a Reader (1990) which is a study into the different stages of childhood reading and learning and what readers expect of novels at every age. I’m also a huge fan of the writer Nicola Morgan and she has a very useful concept of the ‘safety net’. In middle grade fiction, the reader should know the safety net’s there, even if it’s not visible – in other words, they’ll know that nothing so dreadful will happen in the story that things won’t work out in the end. For a teenage reader, the safety net must be even more hidden. Readers can get a sense that something bad may – and will – happen and there’s no compulsion for a happy ending. I really enjoyed this aspect of writing for older readers – it was quite liberating!
What is coming next?
I’m working on an entirely different historical fantasy set around the performance in the late seventeenth century of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas! The working title is Witches’ Chorus.
Thanks Bea and best of luck with The Misper.
Bea Davenport is a former BBC journalist who now teaches writing and journalism. Her debut children’s novel, The Serpent House (Curious Fox, 2014) was shortlisted for a Times/Chicken House award. Her novel for reluctant readers, My Cousin Faustina (ReadZone Books, 2015), was originally written as an interactive e-book. She has a Creative Writing PhD and lives between Leeds and Berwick upon Tweed, with her family and a very silly cat.
Kate Kelly is a marine scientist by day but by night she takes up a pen and writes. She has had a number of short stories published, both in print and online, and many of these are now available in her short story collection, The Scribbling Sea Serpent, available on Amazon. Her debut novel Red Rock, a Cli-Fi thriller for teens, was published by Curious Fox in 2013. She is currently working on a thriller. Kate lives in Dorset with her family and when she isn’t writing she enjoys messing about in boats.