Resources for Writers
Writing for Children by Bannie McPartlin
My first book Pack Up The Moon, was published in 2006. My first screenplay was transmitted in 2008. Now in 2019 my first children’s book is currently on bookshelves across Ireland and the UK and it’s the most excited I’ve been since way back then.
The story of The Fearless Five was actually the second book I pitched of my initial three-book deal. My publisher told me it wasn’t appropriate and my newly acquired audience would have no interest in a child-centric story. I was signed to write adult fiction. So I didn’t think about it again. Instead I wrote two more adult fiction books, then another contract came my way and so I wrote four more but this story, never went away.
Over the past few years I stepped away from novels to focus on TV scriptwriting and it was during that time I decided to take a chance at writing for children. I knew that just because I had successfully written for adults did not necessarily mean I could successfully do the same for children but this story and these characters had lived with me so long I knew I had to try. I read everything and everyone that appealed to children, I became a fan of many children’s authors along the way. Those books, both motivated and intimidated me but finally I was ready to place my fingers on the keys of my computer and start typing.
I wasn’t sure what the age group my story would appeal to I just had to trust that my characters and their tale of adventure, heartache, friendship and love would find an audience. During the writing of the story I sometimes worried that a young boy’s mother dying of cancer and the lengths his friends would go to – to save them was too dark. I wasn’t signed to a publishing house. I wrote this book for myself. So despite this niggling concern I kept going. I wasn’t particularly aware of word counts for children. I just had a story to tell and so I told it. My agent, Sheila Crowley of Curtis Brown supported me taking time away from adult fiction completely. She read each draft and made recommendations and gave it to a select few editors and we then took on board their recommendations.
Writing for children is very different than for adults. I took on board all criticisms of which there are too many to list and I worked and re-worked the book. When eventually I felt ready I handed it to Laura, then ten-years-old and my best friend’s daughter. I told her to read it and be honest. She was and it was painful but it was also brilliant. The adults in my industry gave me great tips but this child that I love gave me incredible insight. I settled into a new draft. This is the draft that caught Bonnier Zaffre/Piccadilly Press’ eye.
I signed after Easter of last year, I’ve worked with my brilliant editor Georgia Murray since, honing the story and characters and ensuring its suitability for (as it turned out) an audience of eight to twelve-year-olds. My five Fearless twelve-year-olds doing all the wrong things for the most honorable of reasons and their concerns, hopes, fears, dreams and sometimes, grim reality strikes a chord with this age group.
The word count was easy to manage but the topic required me treading carefully. I wanted to be honest and raw without frightening or depressing my new audience. It was that balance that was hardest to achieve. I believe I did that by slipping into the mind of my own inner child and viewing the world from that past perspective. I didn’t want to patronize and worked hard to empathise with the kids in my story and in turn the kids in my audience. That is the main difference between writing for adults and children, it’s the headspace I found myself in, a lighter, brighter and anything is probable or possible place.
I love writing all my novels. Being a novelist and TV writer is a dream come through for me. I am grateful every day but even so, this new venture is unquantifiably special. I had to come to terms with never being a mother a few years ago and since writing this book (although that will never change) I do feel closer to the child I used to be. I can also celebrate children in general. During the promotion of this book I am meeting and reading for kids in schools and in bookstores across Ireland and these funny, brilliant, insightful, honest and curious little people give me hope for the future of this world and planet. Against a backdrop of dirty politics, wars, climate change and perpetual threat they carry with them hope, trust and a kind of inner joy that inspires me.
(c) Bannie McPartlin
About The Fearless Five:
A bighearted, madcap heist story from a bestselling and much-loved Irish novelist.
Funny and sad and wonderful … I adored every last word. Derek Landy, author of SKULLDUGGERY PLEASANT
For readers who enjoyed David Walliams’ Bad Dad there’s a new gang of thieves in town and this time they’re children. Never shying away from the realities of life – one of the children’s mums is very ill and they have turned to crime to try and save her – McPartlin’s plot cracks along at break-neck speed, with zippy dialogue and lovable rogue characters. Most of all this book has real heart. Sarah Webb
A heist story with a big heart. NI4Kids magazine