As the closing date for applications to the next of our children’s writing courses draws near, it’s no surprise we at Curtis Brown Creative are thinking a lot about fiction for young readers. So we were very excited to hear this week that bestselling Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, author of the four-volume ‘Neapolitan Novels’ series, is now turning her attention to writing for children. She’s not the first established writer to do this. Ian Fleming may be best known for his record-shatteringly successful James Bond series, which began with Casino Royale in 1953, but he took some time out between You Only Live Twice (1964) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) to write Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – adapted into the famous film by Roald Dahl (who also penned some fantastic adult novels as well his better-known children’s stories). JRR Tolkien, of course, went the other way. His most famous work, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, only came about due to the pressure for a sequel following the huge success of his first novel The Hobbit – a book intended for children.
Looking to the contemporary scene, though, many established writers of fiction for adults have also written novels for children and young adults. Here are some of our favourites…
Emily worked as a journalist in London but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, writing a column about it as she went, and it was while she was away she had the idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, an adult thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award in 2011. Skipping ahead 12 years and following the publication of The Sleeper, her twelfth novel aimed at adults, Emily began writing for a younger audience. Her first novel for young adults, The One Memory of Flora Banks, is due for publication next year. The novel follows the story of the titular character, a teenage girl who lives with memory loss. Flora is unable to remember anything that has occurred since the onset of her amnesia, and must continuously be reminded of her life since.
Matt (above) is a novelist, screenwriter and bestselling non-fiction writer, whose works include The Radleys, The Humans and Reasons to Stay Alive (still riding high in the bestseller lists). After writing a couple of Shakespeare retellings in modern contexts (including Henry IV, Part I with the protagonists reimagined as dogs), he wrote his first novel for children, Shadow Forest – the story of a 12-year-old boy who loses both his parents in a car accident and is forced to move in with his family in Norway – in 2007. The book went on to be shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. Matt followed Shadow Forest with a sequel, The Runaway Troll, in 2008, but it is his ingenious telling of the Father Christmas story in A Boy Called Christmas, published at the end of 2015, that has really marked him out as one of the most talented and inventive writers for children working today.
Prolific Norwegian author Jo Nesbø sells his gritty crime thrillers – the Harry Hole series – by the bucketload, and The Snowman and The Leopard are now staples of most British holidaymakers’ reading list. These novels follow detective Harry Hole around the world as he solves cases, rescues women in peril and battles alcoholism among other demons. But when he’s not writing about murder and violence, Jo also pens stories for children. After the success of Dr Proctor’s Fart Powder in 2007, he has produced a further three novels about the eponymous doctor. Personally, I’m waiting for the crossover novel in which Harry and Dr Proctor team up to solve cases using the famous fart powder, but perhaps the world isn’t ready for that one yet. The first Dr Proctor novel was adapted into a 2014 Norwegian film with the wonderful title of Doktor Proktors Prompepulver.
After winning the Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award with his debut novel, Acts of Revision, in 1996, Martyn wrote a further four novels for adults before embarking on a career in YA fiction. His first YA novel, Flip, has won or been in contention for no less than 14 prizes in the UK since publication, and he has concentrated on producing novels for Young Adults ever since. His most recent book, Twenty Questions for Gloria, was published by Walker Books at the beginning of 2016.
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.