Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan) has won this year's Waterstone's Children's Book Prize, which recognises writers who have written two fiction titles or fewer.
Brahmachari described Artichoke Hearts as "a coming-of-age novel written through the eyes of a 12-year-old narrator, Mira, about a pivotal month in her life when her grandmother dies, and she falls in love." The grandmother gives Mira a small piece of jewellery, an artichoke's heart, which is the beginning of her learning the secrets of the heart.
Brahmachari was awarded the £5,000 prize last night [9th February].
She said: "I felt it was a 'quiet' story so I was amazed when Macmillan took it on and published it. I was even more amazed when it was shortlisted for the Waterstone's prize and thrilled when it won."
She added: "As a début writer, you visit bookshops and wonder how on earth people will find your book within that sea of books already there? The Waterstone's prize gives your book a stamp of approval which might encourage more people to pick it up, which is what you always want as a writer."
Brahmachari now writes full time but previously worked in theatre education. She said: "I have 20 years of working in schools behind me and found it incredibly inspiring to work with children and young people."
The author has signed for two titles with Macmillan and has just completed the second story, which is based on a minor character from Artichoke Hearts, although it remains a stand-alone book.
Although much of the teen market is focused on paranormal romance, Brahmachari said: "I don't think it's in me to write a genre-based story." She added: "That's not to say I won't write about the paranormal at some stage." Artichoke Hearts has many references to ghostly appearances, based, says the author, on her own experiences of seeing ghosts as a child.
She is now gearing up to do events in the guise of Pat Print, a character from her book who works with children to inspire them to write their own stories—a character to whom she very much relates.