Rachel Ward is the author of trilogy book series Numbers, published by Chicken House publishing. The first book in the series, ‘Numbers’ was published in 2009 and has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s book prize. Numbers was then followed on by two more books to create the trilogy, these books were; The Chaos (published 2010) and Infinity (published 2011). Her Fourth book, separate to the numbers series; The Drowning was published in May 2013. The sequel to The Drowning, Water Born was officially launched in 2014.
Rachel agreed to be interviewed about her books and her writing, here is the result of that interview.
Q. When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
A. I first started writing in my mid-thirties. I just thought I would give it a try and didn’t really have any expectations beyond challenging myself and seeing what I could do.
Q. Is there something in particular that first inspired you to start writing?
A. I used to, and still do, listen to the Afternoon Play on Radio 4. After hearing a particularly bad one, I thought, ‘I wonder if I could write a better one?’ and started writing. Turns out, I couldn’t, but by the time I’d written it and been rejected by the BBC I was hooked on writing. After that I tried short stories and then novels for children and, finally, teens.
Q. Who is your favourite author and why?
A. I don’t think I’ve got one favourite. There are quite a few writers who I enjoy reading. I tend to ration their books so I don’t run out of them. Writers on this list include Kevin Brooks, Ann Tyler, Ian Rankin, John Green and Rainbow Rowell.
Q. The idea behind numbers is very unique and interesting, where did this idea come from?
A. The idea of being able to see death dates popped into my head one morning when I was walking my dog. Jem, my main character, wandered into my head and I knew all about her straight away, including her ‘gift’. Twenty-four hours later her friend Spider appeared too. I think the idea of seeing death dates was partly inspired by the US TV series ‘Six Feet Under’ which is one of my favourites.
Q. Where do you get ideas for characters from?
A. I really don’t know. Sometimes they just ‘appear’, other times I have to work hard on my characters to get to know them. They’re not usually based on people that I’ve met – they’re completely random.
Q. Which of your characters are you most like, and why?
A. I don’t think I’m like any of my main characters, except that I drew on my own teenage alienation when I was writing Jem. We expressed this in different ways but I think the emotional roots are the same. (I do make a cameo appearance in ‘Numbers’ as a dog-walker who finds Jem sleeping in the fields overlooking Bath.)
Q. Have you had any experiences in life that have inspired ideas in your writing?
A. I think all my experiences get fed into my writing in one way or another, but it’s difficult to think of specific incidents that have been featured directly. I wrote two books around the dangers lurking in water (‘The Drowning’ and ‘Water Born’) and it was only after I’d finished the second one that I realised that one of my earliest memories was falling backwards into a paddling pool and nearly drowning when I was quite small. Did that early accident inspire me at a subconscious level? Probably.
Q. What are you currently working on, and is there anything you can tell us about it?
A. I’m currently working on another book for teens, a sort of science fiction/detective story/thriller in space.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the hardest part about writing?
A. I think the two hardest things are getting an idea that is strong enough to sustain interest for you as a writer and for the reader, and then translating that idea into words on a page. The book I’m currently working on is a case in point. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a very strong idea, but I’m struggling to do justice to it. I know it can be better.
Q. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
A. Write what you yourself would like to read. Tell yourself a story. Leave yourself gasping for more at the end of a writing session. Try and write every day. Even writing a few words or a paragraph or two creates some momentum and helps you when you’re tackling something large, like a full-length novel. Set word-count targets, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. Enjoy it!
Q. Tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know about you?
A. Ooh, this is tricky. Umm, I’ve got a Geography degree. I keep bantams (chickens). I’m a teetotal vegetarian (yup, I’m a barrel of laughs at parties). I’ve started painting (oils) in the last year.
Q. If you could give us one message to your readers, what would it be?
A. I love it when my books really connect with a reader. I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but I also know that they have meant a lot to some people and that’s made me happier than you can imagine.