Happy birthday to NUMBERS!
Numbers author Rachel Ward stops by our blog on the tenth anniversary of her debut novel ...
It’s ten years since Numbers was published, which has given me pause for thought. I skim-read the book again last year for a thing and it was a strange experience. So much has happened in the last ten years that it almost felt like reading a book written by someone else. Anyway, here are ten thoughts, quirky facts and a few numbers to mark this personal milestone.
1. I wrote the first draft in 6 months in 2006, writing for 45 minutes every day before everyone else in my house woke up.
2. My dog and I make a brief appearance in the book (walking in the fields overlooking Bath). I put us in there in case it ever got filmed and we could have ready-made cameo roles. (Think big! Plan ahead!)
3. Bizarrely I had included the names of my publishers in the book before I had met or even heard of them. Numbers has a Barry (‘Baz’) and Imogen (nice social worker).
4. In another auger of things to come, a few weeks before I knew about Chicken House, I found a stray chicken at the side of the road in the middle of Salisbury plain and adopted her.
5. Originally the book finished at what is now the penultimate chapter, but Barry and Imogen at Chicken House wanted to see an extra twist, so I squashed most of what I’d intended for the sequel into an extra chapter with a final, gasp-inducing sentence.
6. I found Chicken House through an editorial surgery with Imogen Cooper at the Frome Festival. The next day I drove to Frome again, handed in my full manuscript and met Barry. I think my lucky stars for the series of events that led me to this. (Recently, I have helped organise similar surgeries at the Bradford-on-Avon Mini Book Festival and am happy to see a new generation of fledgling writers getting access to and advice from Chicken House.)
7. Numbers sold all over the world (26 deals, I believe) and took me to many countries – Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Via the internet I also heard from readers even further afield, which was a wonderful and surprisingly moving thing. The connection with readers is a continuing source of joy, as is the thought that my books have made a difference to some people.
8. Reading it back recently, I was struck at the boldness of 2006 me. It’s quite an uncompromising story, rather bleak for a lot of the time. Since then, life has knocked away my hard edges, I think, and I’d find it difficult to write something quite so tough again.
9. Although I would describe all three Numbers books as YA thrillers, they are also (maybe primarily) love stories. They talk about the enduring transformative power of love – of different sorts – and hopefully leave the reader with an element of hope, and some food for thought.
10. There’s life in the old book yet. Numbers is currently optioned to Magic Light who are working on developing the book for a small-screen audience. Maybe 2019 will be the start of a new chapter for Numbers.
As part of the birthday celebrations, I am offering a limited number of schools a free 30 minute Skype call during January (and possibly February). Do contact me, via Chicken House or directly via my website or Twitter (@RachelWardbooks) if interested.