Meet aspiring middle-grade children’s fiction writer
Nantwich, England; Kunshan, China; Worldwide
Date of Interview: February 13, 2020
Hi there Rebecca – or Becky, as I know you are well known by – and thank you very much for availing yourself for this interview. We’re excited to get to know you a bit better and take a peek inside the life and mind of a writer laying her foundation in the world. Let’s go ahead and start off with some general background. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, please? You know, where are you from? What is your background in writing? Do you have a “day job”, so to speak? That kind of stuff.....
Hi, Andreas and Biz Opp Empire readers! My full name is Rebecca King, but most people call me Becky. I’m originally from Nantwich, Cheshire in the UK, and I went to University in Portsmouth where I studied Journalism. Nowadays, I’m an English teacher in a school in China, where I teach Grades 1 and 2. But writing is my real passion, and I spend 99% of my time either reading or creating my own stories. To me, there’s nothing better than a good book that stays in your head days after you’ve finished reading!
Completely agree! Books that really touch you on some level are the best kind to read! Would you be up for elaborating a little bit on the background of specifically how you first got interested in writing and what you have done with writing in the past?
I think I first got into writing when I was in primary school actually. My teacher encouraged me to write a poem for a regional competition and I ended up getting second place. I remember thinking at the time I couldn’t believe it, and it might have been what sparked that interest. But I’ve always been a reader – I used to take as many books out of the library as I could at one time and then I’d be back again a week or so later to get more. I studied Journalism at University and I fell in love with news and storytelling, especially the fast-paced world of daily news. During university I did some work experience at a daily newspaper in the UK called the Shropshire Star, and I must have made some sort of impression as they offered me a job and I went to work for them as soon as I finished my degree. I’ve since done two writing courses with literary agencies and publishers and have just started an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Tell us a little more about your time with the paper, please. What were some of your specific job responsibilities? How did any of that experience help you learn and grow as a writer?
I started as a reporter on the paper and then moved up to senior reporter once I qualified with the National Council of Training for Journalists. After that, the editor at the paper was kind enough to give me the opportunity to work as a reporter, but also spend time as an editor on the news desk. This meant being part of the meetings to decide what went in the paper each day and where, but also checking all the work before it went to print. I had to request certain articles we needed for that day from reporters, then check their work once it had been written, work closely with reporters to check details, place it on the spot in the paper, and then it would go to our copy editor for the final proofreading. I also had to try to write headlines but I was always terrible at that!
Let’s talk about your writing right now. Do you have a particular aim and purpose to your writing? Do you focus on a specific genre or genres?
Now, I’m writing entirely different stories than I did during my days with the paper! I’m currently working on children’s fiction aimed at middle grade readers. This is generally children aged around 9-12. I tend to write magical realism, just tipping into the line of fantasy. There’s something about adding a bit of magic to the lives that we are familiar with that really excites me. All the stories I write tend to be an adventure of some sort because when I was younger, I used to love using books as a form of escapism – they were the adventures I wished I could have myself!
You have a manuscript under agency review right now – tell us a little bit about that. What is the story about? What inspired you to write it.
So, this current novel follows the adventures of 12-year-old Alba Spencer...
When aspiring explorer Alba finds out her parents aren’t who she thought they were, a curse is triggered inside her, taking her on the adventure of a lifetime. Every day, she wakes in a different corner of the world, from the tea plantations of Sri Lanka to the canals in Venice. It seems like a dream come true to begin with, but unless she can learn to control it, she may never be able to find her way home and could spend her whole life alone, forced from one country to the next as she falls asleep each night.
This has probably been inspired by my time living and travelling internationally. It’s filled with all the places I’ve loved visiting around the world. I went to bed one night and remember thinking, wouldn’t it just be great to wake up somewhere else tomorrow? Then the more I lay there thinking about it, I thought how terrible that might actually be. That’s where the nugget of the idea began.
What is the intended audience of your recent piece?
Middle grade readers. Most of my protagonists are girls but I like to think that boys might enjoy them too – although it’s generally assumed, sadly, that boys tend to only read books about boys. Hopefully something will change that!
Ha, ha, ha! Yes, indeed, maybe your work will. So, is this the first manuscript you have sent for review by a publisher? What about any other previous works - would you tell us about any of them?
So it’s not actually under publisher review yet, there are so many steps before we can get there! The general process is as follows. First, the author writes the book, then they submit a pitch and three sample chapters to a literary agent. This person can then either reject the pitch, or they can request to see the full novel. Once they’ve requested to see the full, they can either reject you, or they can offer you representation. This simply means they will be the person managing you, representing you, and championing your work.
After that, you’ll work with the literary agent to polish the manuscript, before sending it out to publishers. Then it’s a similar story of waiting and hoping!
Right now, I’m in the very first stage, I’ve submitted a few chapters to a number of agents. I’ve had a couple of requests for full manuscripts so far and am still waiting to hear back from others.
Previously, I wrote a novel about a girl who could physically jump into a book’s world and she ended up having to fix a number of classic stories that had all been jumbled up and manipulated. I sent this out and had some interest from agents who seemed to really enjoy it, but unfortunately a book with a very similar plotline had been published recently. So, I’m hoping this latest book will have more luck!
As with any “solopreneur” type venture, which writing as an individual writer definitely falls into, it would appear that a certain amount of networking is key – or at least very helpful! What kinds of people are you looking to network with?
I’m hoping to network with other writers and agents, as well as people who have already had experience in this field.
What aspect or aspects of being a writer present the greatest challenges to you?
It sounds strange, but writing is very personal. It feels great to write, but when someone says “Oh, can I read that?” It’s a bit daunting to let them see – especially when it’s someone you know well! But I think that’s a case of confidence and I’m hoping it will change over time.
What aspect or aspects of being a writer give you the greatest joy and rewards?
It’s really great to me that I’m following a passion I love. So many people say they want to write a book, but very few actually bother. Also, it’s great for me to see how far I’ve come. I look back and read something I wrote a year ago and at the time I thought it was great, but now I look at it and think, “what was I thinking?!”. I can see that I’ve become a better writer, and as someone who likes to progress and learn, it’s a good channel for that.
Perfect! And the next question is directly related to that! How does writing help you keep sane and channel your energy?
Oooh, interesting question! Well, I think it helps me be less crazy! Lots of the time, I’ll be walking along and suddenly have this strange idea for a book, or think that a tree looks like a great setting for a secret world or something bonkers. For a long time, I would just voice those ideas to whoever was around, and they’d give me a funny look. Being able to write them lets me express my imagination and creativity and all those strange ideas I have. It’s a great channel for my creativity and if I didn’t have that I think I would struggle.
As we wrap things up for today, do you have any final words of wisdom or other advice to others looking to go down the “writer’s track” or get into something similar?
If you were looking to go into journalism, my advice would be study, learn on the job, follow your instinct and be prepared to harden up to things.
For writing books, I’m not sure I’m qualified to give too much advice yet, but some of the best advice I’ve had so far is just to keep writing. It’s really easy to give up and it’s really easy to say you aren’t good enough. But if you have a good story to tell, someone will want to read it.
Brilliant! You know, they say that’s how Jack London did it: he forced himself to write every day just for practice, even if it was never published, or so they say; and we all know the legacy he left to the world. Well, again, thank you, Becky, for taking the time for this interview today and giving us a little bit of a glimpse into the life and mind of an independent writer. I, for one, am excited to follow you and the progress of your recent manuscript. I wish you all the best and I hope we can see it on bookstore shelves – both online and offline – in the not-too-distant future. Speaking of following you and your work, would you be up for sharing any methods people interested in learning more about you and your writing could use to contact you?
I’m on twitter as @rebeccaking28 but I am absolutely terrible at social media, I’m not sure I’ve ever even tweeted!
Thank you, Becky. Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Rebecca King, aspiring children’s writer extraordinaire! And remember, you read about it all on Biz Opp Empire – promoting ideas, inspiration, and opportunity within the realm of small business, freelance, and entrepreneurship!
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