James Harris is the winner of the inaugural £5,000 Hachette Children’s Novel Award, a prize set up by New Writing North and Hachette Children’s Group to find new Northern voices. He answers our questions about his win and his writing below.
What is your novel about?
It’s a story about a little girl who is a rock/punk guitarist. She lives in a town where there is a secret scientific research facility and it keeps going wrong, even though all the adults ignore it. Then it goes really wrong and the girl has to battle monsters and scientists—and the apathy of adults—to save the world.
Before entering the prize, were you already writing and trying to get published?
Around 15 years ago I started making short films and that’s why I started writing—because I had to write the films myself. In the past 10 years I’ve been involved in an organisation in Middlesbrough called Writers’ Block that partners with New Writing North. A couple of years ago, agents came to Middlesbrough and I needed to have something to show them. That’s when I started this story. It took two years to get it ready for the prize.
How “Northern”, or inspired by the North, is your work?
That’s a difficult question! My particular story is rooted in what’s going on in the world. It’s about global concerns and how we have to tell ourselves everything is going to be fine, even though it probably isn’t. But my experiences are rooted in this region.
What do the prize winnings entail?
The prize is to be published by Hachette, which is astonishing. I will also be offered support from New Writing North in terms of meeting agents. It’s amazing.
What are your publishing and writing ambitions?
I want to write more, although I am that cliché of the writer who doesn’t enjoy writing but loves having written. This is the calm before the storm, but I’m currently thinking about more stories and interesting situations and I will see if I can turn them into stories.
This was written as part of The Bookseller's focus on publishing in the north of England; for more content from this focus, head here.