Catherine Fox took to the stage at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to launch her latest novel, Wolf Tide. Accompanying Catherine were fellow writers from the Manchester Writing School, reading from the Timelines short story anthology.
The event began with an announcement from Livi Michael, a Creative Writing Lecturer at MMU and host for the evening. The Timelines anthology, the Manchester Writing School’s own publication, had sold out for the second time. Timelines is a collection of short historical fiction for teens, and includes stories and illustrations by students of the Manchester Writing School and the Manchester School of Art at MMU. It was clear from extracts read by Anna Mainwaring and Emma George, Timelines consists of many aspiring and imaginative storytellers. Other notable authors include N.M. Browne, Sherry Ashworth, Iris Feindt and Livi Michael, who aim to be the leading publisher for children’s writing in the UK.
Wolf Tide is Catherine’s 10th novel, and is unlike any of her past work. Dark, compelling, full of magic and although it is aimed at young adults, there is something for an older audience too. As Livi said, she was ‘completely hooked’ from the start.
|Left to Right: Livi Michael talks with Catherine Fox
17 year-old Anabara Nolio is descended from a long line of warriors. She is also a private investigator. When tasked with discovering the truth about the university library’s lost books she thinks it’s a simple case. But the city isle of Laridy is riddled with dark secrets and ancient magic – a legacy from historic dealings with the realm of the Fairy. A world where stained-glass angels can leave their windows to fight, where rooftops are guarded by armed statues. When Anabara decides to free a Fairy slave during her investigation she is plunged into a terrifying underworld of trafficking and trickery – and solving the case becomes the least of her problems.
The novel is a departure from her earlier works, which are mainly set in the real world. Catherine explained that she wanted to write a detective story, but didn’t know much about police procedure, so it was far better to be set in a realm she has created herself. “In that case I could do exactly what I like as long as I keep my own rules,” she explained.
“Writing is a process of discovery,” Catherine said. She invents her characters as she writes them. “That’s my plotting technique as well,” she admitted, bringing laughs from the audience. For example, an amulet is described throughout the novel, and as Anabara wonders what it does, Catherine did too during the writing process. Finally, ‘it all fell into place’ as she completed the first draft of the novel.
First drafts and editing can be a tricky business. Catherine remembers one editor holding up a manuscript of hers saying “I think this is a first draft, of a first novel, out of which may eventually come the novel we publish.”
“It came back with red ink all over it,” she laughed, saying she felt like she would be sent to the head teacher’s office.
Waiting to be published is the hardest part of the process: having rejections, and hearing nothing. “Rejection,” Catherine said, “is like running into a plate glass window that you didn’t know was there.”
|Left to Right: Iris Feindt with Timelines, Livi Michael, and Catherine Fox with Wolf Tide
I had the chance to ask her a couple of questions after the main event. I wanted to know how she created the names for the characters.
“I spent some time walking on the coast of North Devon, where there were many gulls flying around. I looked up the Latin word for gull, which is larus, and this became the City of Laridy, where the Gull People live.”
She usually uses Latin words as a springboard to help her create some names. The title was inspired from the tidal bore on the River Severn, which is celebrated to this day in England, as it is by the inhabitants of Laridy.
As for character names, she chooses ones that sound fitting, but not so obscure readers can’t remember them. Some ideas she took from Maori culture, as the Gull People have tattooed foreheads.
Catherine also has a new novel coming out soon, Acts and Omissions. It is crowed-sourced as she began writing bits on Twitter each week and found she was getting responses. She thought it would be fun to write about the serialised Victorian novel and get other people’s opinions, and they contributed some ideas she would never have thought of. She explained how it will be interesting to see it as a book altogether, as it worked really well in serial form.
Wolf Tide Gala Launch was a Manchester Children’s Book Festival trailblazer event. If you would like to hear about upcoming events in relation to MCBF you can sign up for the 2014 mailing list on the MCBF website.