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Interview with Sylvia Hehir, author of 'Sea Change'

We're very excited to have a launch date for our next novel: Sylvia Hehir's Young Adult thriller Sea Change. Blackwell's of Edinburgh will be our host on Wednesday, 3rd July -- it's a free event, but you will need to book your ticket here. To whet your whistle for Sea Change (honestly, that's the only [tentative] water pun I'll include), we asked author Sylvia Hehir to tell us a little about the novel and the process behind writing it.


The police officer behind the wheel had only been in the area for a short while. As she stepped out of the van there was no hint of a smile. This wasn’t a ‘getting to know you’ call.

1) Is Sea Change your first novel?

Sea Change is my debut novel, although I have a couple of other young adult manuscripts completed and put away in the drawer, as it were.


2) Do you have a favourite format to write? How do you feel different genres influence you in writing Sea Change?

I usually handwrite my first draft, or pre-first draft really, in an A4 lined pad with a Papermate non-stop pencil. I then type up after a few scenes.


I enjoy reading both crime fiction and young adult fiction. Within the category of young adult fiction there are not many titles released under the crime or thriller genres. However, I feel the many reasons why these genres are popular with adults are also relevant to a younger readership. In terms of authors, those writing contemporary realism such as Patrick Ness, Aidan Chambers and Patrice Lawrence have had a significant influence on my writing.


3) What is Sea Change about?

On one level, Sea Change is a page-turning thriller where a small highland community is the setting for a serious crime. As it is aimed at a teenage readership, all the main characters are teenagers including the perpetrator of the crime, the victim and the investigators.


On another level, the story explores how a friendship can survive when secrets lead to disastrous consequences. As is often the case in young adult fiction, the characters are also growing up a bit, taking those necessary steps towards an independent adult life.


4) Why did you choose to submit to Stirling Publishing?

In that Sea Change is set in the West Highlands of Scotland, I was keen to approach Scottish publishers. When I saw that Tabatha Stirling was expanding her list and was open to submissions for young adult fiction, I sent her my opening three chapters. Tabatha sounded a go-ahead and dynamic personality and I felt she would actively promote any title she took on.


5) Did you have a favourite extract to write?

My favourite extract is when we first see Alex trying to solve his money problems. He is pushed into actions which he definitely feels uncomfortable with and I really felt sorry for him at that point.


6) How did you create your characters?

Once the characters had their place-holding roles, I let them talk to each other, either in my head, or in free writing. Their personalities and characteristics then developed as they encountered the various challenges throughout the narrative.


7) Did you undertake any research to write Sea Change?

I find I always need to research various aspects of a story, if only to provide convincing details. I do not own a boat, I do not go fishing for lobsters, I did not know the police procedures concerning the search for a missing person, and I am not (nor ever have been) a teenage boy uncertain about his sexuality.


8) What intentions did you have in writing Sea Change?

My priority was to write a gripping narrative with engaging and realistic characters.


9) Did writing Sea Change prompt any of your current or future writing?

I am interested in the effects that serious crime and the actions of criminals have on ordinary people and this is an underlying theme in Sea Change. This theme of the repercussions of crimes is a significant factor in my current work in progress.


10) Are there any characters you'd be tempted to use again in future work?

I think the boys in Sea Change have had their fair share of life-determining events, and so any follow-up to Sea Change would probably present Caitlin and Moth with some ordeals.


We look forward to seeing everyone at the launch in July, and we can't wait to hear what you thought of Sea Change.

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