I’m delighted to reveal that I am the winner of the Catalyst Book Award 2014 for Conjuring The Infinite. The Catalyst Book Award is voted for by teenagers in North Lanarkshire. The Catalyst initiative was set up to promote reading and literacy. It’s a celebration of teen fiction. Previous winners include Elizabeth Wein, Linda Strachan, and Alex Scarrow. And now I’m the latest in a long line of authors to take the title.
This was my expression when I read the email:
I was told yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been desperately waiting to tell everyone. I fought hard to win this award. I’m actually in the middle of touring Conjuring The Infinite, so I was able to reach out and connect with my audience, and get their votes when the ballot boxes were put out. The competition was fierce, but I’m fierce too. No, seriously…I am! I honestly thought Kevin Brooks was going to sneak in at the last moment and win the award. The Bunker Diaries, which last week won The Carnegie Medal, is a brilliant novel – and don’t let The Telegraph tell you otherwise. Sarah Mussi and Charlie Fletcher also put out some of their best work with their nominated books. This victory is even better knowing that it was against insanely talented authors; they are the best that YA fiction has to offer.
Conjuring The Infinite was initially turned down by publishers because it’s a very bleak and sometimes nasty story. It was criticised by one person for having no likeable characters. I was even told that I needed a “relatable protagonist just like” (I kid you not) “Bella from Twilight”. The character of Seth Kevorkian is about the closest Conjuring The Infinite comes to having a main character – and he’s dead. Not only that, he’s utterly vindictive and awful. And he loves being vindictive and awful. He spends the entirety of the book trying to impress an entity from another dimension; a creature of vast cosmic evil. In a world of YA books brimming with romance, fantasy, and handsome werewolves…a murderous teenage sorcerer might have been a bit too much to handle. I didn’t want to write about a home for difficult teens and make it feel like a Tracy Beaker story. The Cottage (the setting for my book) is not a place you want to stay. I think Conjuring The Infinite is a difficult book to classify; it’s a whodunnit, a supernatural tale, a comedy, and a puzzle. It isn’t something you can easily categorise. But I have a fear of being filed, pigeonholed, and stamped neatly into place. I didn’t know if Conjuring The Infinite would fit in with the current market. I’ve since discovered that it didn’t need to fit in with the current market: if you put out something different and interesting, then different and interesting people will find it.
In my short time as an author – my book was only published in May last year – I’ve seen spectacular changes in my life. Conjuring The Infinite has taken me on a journey, and I’m still travelling.
I’ve gone from fearing no-one would like the book to getting rave reviews in the Daily Record, BookSword, and Evening Times. I’ve gone from performing weird one-man shows to touring schools, theatres, literary festivals and LOVING IT. Signing autographs is better than signing on. Remember that mantra! I’ve received fan mail asking questions about the characters in Conjuring The Infinite. And the readers are so savvy and brilliant. I used to write letters to my favourite authors too. True Confession: I burst into tears when Roald Dahl died.
I want to thank everyone who went out and voted for Conjuring The Infinite. This will change my life. I want to thank the librarians who allowed me to appear (“as if by magick”) in their school libraries. I want to thank Strident Publishing for taking a chance on me. They’re putting out my next novel; it’s called Endless Empress and it’s as mad as Conjuring The Infinite. Please buy it or get it out of your library.
Now I need to do a victory tour and visit the schools that voted for me in the Catalyst Book Award!