The Story and Stories of Working Class Writers

In November 2017 I cried at the radio. I was listening to Where Are All the Working Class Writers? The show had been put together by Kit de Waal. It featured writers and editors who came from working class backgrounds telling their stories of how they broke into the industry. They talked about libraries as refuges and publishing institutions as gated palaces they didn’t feel they belonged inside. I cried because this was my writing story too, the risks, the highs and the barriers.

So I contacted Kit and asked what needed to be done to get Working Class voices heard. She said people like me should join together to form a collective. Right then! So I floated the idea on Twitter and writers started to show their support. And that’s how it happened – a movement to get Working Class stories heard. Continue reading “The Story and Stories of Working Class Writers”

The Writer’s Plan Gets Funding to Go Live

What is The Writer’s Plan?

Carmen Marcus, award winning author and Jenna Warren, Owner-Manager of Book Corner Saltburn, have teamed up to offer aspiring working-class writers a unique course on developing a strategy to write professionally.

As a working-class writer and creative facilitator Marcus has encountered many barriers, both personal and practical, to breaking into the industry. Knowing how to overcome these barriers is as much part of a writer’s life as the daily wordcount. From primary school to conference workshops writers are told to ‘just write’, as though that’s all that’s needed. But not all writers are supported by a scaffolding of confidence and the practical means to just write, especially those from underrepresented groups.

It takes courage to tell a story you’ve never seen on the bookshelves before; it takes confidence to believe your story belongs and it takes industry knowledge to get it published.

So, before we can just write we have to build that scaffolding of confidence and practical know how – to do that we need a plan.

Based on personal experience and needs identified from other underrepresented writers Marcus created the Writer’s Plan: a five-step route-map to build confidence; provide practical insights on how to balance writing and life; how to access development opportunities and how to break into the industry – that’s what we’re offering to you.

Marcus had the opportunity to trial the plan as an online blog in its early phase, here’s what one participant said:

“By working through Carmen’s Writer’s Plan with a trusted buddy, I have re-defined my writing goals, and identified what I need in order to achieve them. It is wonderful to have confidence that my goals are within reach. I finally feel that I am – and deserve to be – a writer.”

Helen Anderson, Author

If you’d like to see the plan blog please see the posts here.

The course will comprise five, two-hour sessions and take place bi-weekly between the 22nd September and 17th November on a Sunday afternoon at Book Corner, 24 Milton Street, Saltburn-by-the Sea. You will need to commit to all course dates.

The course will be free for all successful applicants and a travel bursary of up to £20 per applicant per session will be awarded to support travel costs.

Who are we looking for?

Are you an aspiring or emerging writer from the Tees Valley and Teesside region? Are you unagented and unpublished? Do you self-identify as being working class or from a working class background? Do you feel a bit lost when it comes to pushing your writing forward? Then we’re looking for you.

Your work may well be a work in progress, unfinished or unpolished and that’s absolutely fine. We’re looking for people who are committed to starting a writing career but need support to boost their creative confidence and their industry knowledge.

We are looking for writers of fiction, narrative non-fiction and poetry. We will consider all genres, themes and topics including young adult, memoir, novels, short story, poetry, nature writing and literary essays.

We don’t expect you to be published by a professional publisher, have published a novel or full collection of work but it’s okay if you’ve had single pieces published in on-line journals, on your own blog, or in independent print anthologies.

You need to be over 18 to take part.

If you are a student, either undergraduate or postgraduate, you can still enter if you can show that you are permanently resident in Teesside.

How to enter?

You will need to complete an application form – it’s not scary. We’ve kept it as uncomplicated as we could. It’s not a test. It’s just a chance for us to get to see your work and help us make the right decision about who will get the most out of this activity.

Deadline for entry is 26th August 2019

You can download the application form from: The Writer’s Plan Application Documents

We want you, in 500 words, to tell us how you will benefit from taking part.

We’d like to see a Writer’s CV – you will not be judged negatively if this looks quite bare. It doesn’t matter if all you can say is that you write every Sunday. It’s just to help us see what stage you are at.

We’ll also expect to see:

A writing sample of no more than 800 words of your best work. Your sample can be fiction, narrative non-fiction, poetry, essay, memoir of any genre. Your work does not need to be working-class in subject matter to be considered.

How will it be judged?

Decisions will be made by Carmen Marcus and Jenna Warren and will be final. Decisions will be based upon the quality of the writing excerpt, but how this support will benefit your writing career to date will also be taken into consideration. Successful applicants will be notified by the 9th September at the latest.

What will we need from you if you are successful?

We will need you to attend all of the sessions, so please make sure that you will be available for the following dates:

22nd September

6th October

20th October

3rd November

17th November

We’d like you to be happy to take part in publicity activity surrounding the project. Please be aware that we will be sharing news via various standard and social media channels.

We hope to grow the project and we want to know that it worked for you, so we’ll ask you to take part in some evaluation and feedback activity too.

Who are we?

About Book Corner:

Book Corner (www.bookcornershop.co.uk) is an independent bookshop in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. It was established in 2014 by Jenna Warren, a creative writing graduate. Book Corner stocks fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s books, and Jenna is particularly pleased to promote the work of local authors. The bookshop holds an ongoing programme of writing workshops, poetry readings, book launches, signings, and various other bookish gatherings. In 2019 Book Corner held its first literature and music festival, Saltburn Festival of Seaside Stories and Song, in collaboration with Saltburn Folk Club.


About Carmen Marcus:

Carmen Marcus is an award-winning author based in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Her debut novel, How Saints Die was published with Vintage in 2017, it won New Writing North’s Northern Promise Award and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. As well as an author she is a performance poet, she was named as a BBC Verb New Voice and her work has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall, The South Bank Centre, Durham Book Festival and Apples and Snakes. She is an experienced creative facilitator who regularly teaches and speaks at conferences and events including Penguin Random House’s WriteNow Scheme, Northern Writer’s Conference and Words Weekend. Having made the journey from a council estate to the bookshelves she is an advocate and campaigner for the voices of underrepresented writers.

You can read more about her and her work at

Carmen Marcus

We’d like to thank the Bookseller’s Association for making this scheme possible.

We look forward to reading your entries and good luck.

Carmen and Jenna

The Writer’s Plan Step 3: What’s Stopping You?

Think of your writing place as a ‘portable shelter’ a kind of pop-up tent or den that you build using the resources to hand. This way we can write when we can, where we can.

Hello Writers and welcome to Step 3. How did you get on unearthing your Writerly Desires? I hope it was fun. So now you know what you want let’s think about what’s stopping you from getting there?

This step is all about understanding why we stall and fall so that we can get up and get going again. Now there is a theory that we stop because we’re not working hard enough but that theory is based on the assumption that writing is an indulgence and not an act of resistance and survival. This assumption implies that writing is done instead of working or caring or earning. If we need to write (because we do) and earn and work and care we stop because we’re knackered. So this step is not going to be about flogging ourselves to work harder. (I’m assuming that you already know a lot about hard work.)

The thing about hard work is that it doesn’t actually change the limits we have to live within: it just breaks us.

Continue reading “The Writer’s Plan Step 3: What’s Stopping You?”

The Writer’s Plan: Step 1

A route-map for underrepresented writers

#thewplan A Route-map for Under-represented first published @The Bookseller 12th February 2019

Carmen Marcus

It’s just over a year since I heard Kit de Waal on Radio 4 asking Where Are All The Working Class Writers? The show so precisely laid bare the two big blocks to working class writers getting their stories told: the internal problem of shame and their invisibility to an elite metropolitan industry. After crying at the radio I got it together enough to float the idea of a working class writers’ collective on Twitter. There was a big electric YES pattering from keyboards across the country and the thing we most talked about was ‘What can we do right now?’ but it’s taken me a year to find the answer:

Make a Plan.

Continue reading “The Writer’s Plan: Step 1”

The Writer’s Plan: Step 2 Where Do I Want to Be?

As soon as we say ‘I want’ we’re not just starting to identify our goals as a writer, we’re initiating a battle between the Dreamer and the Doubter inside ourselves.

Hopefully you’ve celebrated packing your bag of skills for Step 1 and are all set for the trip. But we’re not heading out yet. Step 2 is all about where you want your writing journey to take you. At this stage it is all about dreaming big. This should be easy for us writers, shouldn’t it? The slight problem is that maybe the act of dreaming up worlds for imaginary people was a way of escaping the limitations of our reality. So how do we dream big for ourselves?

Note: There are 5 tasks in this step so you may wish to spread it over two sessions, especially if you’re working with a writing buddy.

Tell Me What You Want

In writing this I realised that I needed to flip the question because when asked ‘Where do I want to be?’ it’s easy to jump to the predictable writing goals: ‘international mega-book deal, or the more modest n-submissions to competitions; a completed first draft; submit to an agent.’ Great, these are all really valid goals, but this is setting ourselves up to fail if we don’t address the secret wants we daren’t say out loud.  These quiet desires, like ‘I want to believe in my work’, must be heard to make the bigger stuff happen.

The scary thing is that these deeper needs won’t be fixed by getting an agent or publication or competition wins.

Continue reading “The Writer’s Plan: Step 2 Where Do I Want to Be?”

Interview with Lorraine Gregory Part 2

In this second instalment middle grade author Lorraine Gregory tells us about the catalyst moment that propelled her into the industry, the journey to getting an agent; how she found her voice and genre and who championed her along the way.

Tell me how important the Golden Egg experience was to your development?

After several years of writing and two manuscripts submitted to agents with good feedback but no deal it seemed like I was getting close but I couldn’t seem to get to the next level with my writing. I thought my latest MS (Mold and the Poison Plot) was good but I wanted professional eyes on it in the hope they could tell me what I was missing. I heard about Golden Egg through Twitter and at the time they were just starting out and offering one to one’s with an editor at a rate I could afford.

It made such a huge difference to my work…Maurice Lyon was my mentor and he showed me what I needed to do to push my writing up a level. Then Imogen Cooper, who set up Golden Egg after working at Chicken House, opened my eyes to the structure of writing and helped me hone my editing abilities before I sent out my reworked MS to Kate Shaw at the Viney-Shaw agency who signed me up as a client a month or so later.

I was very lucky to be able to access Golden Egg on the small budget that I had, to me it felt like a worthwhile investment in something that was very important to me and I’m so glad I did. It was a huge learning experience and also enabled me to meet some of my very best friends through their social events.

I think I could have got to the same stage on my own eventually but it would have taken me much longer and probably been less fun!

If you don’t have the budget for something like Golden Egg then I do recommend getting some chapters critiqued with The Children’s Book Circle – who offer events at reasonable prices with professional editors – also conferences, SCBWI and other writer events often have the opportunity for one to one’s and many of them have scholarships or assisted places. And there’s always the option of using a crit group or partner to help you hone your words. And read, there are some brilliant books out there on writing and masses of stuff on the internet…plus social media is your friend..opportunities, competitions and special offers are often listed on twitter.

You can find out more about The Golden Egg Academy here –



Which writers inspire you? How did you decide to write for middle grade? How do you decide which ideas to grow into a story?What do you do to develop your characters?Tell me about Mold and the Poison Plot and what made you tell this tale?Who have been your champions and what difference did they make?

I’m inspired by Frances Hardinge, Katherine Rundell, Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, Cressida Cowell, Jonathan Stroud and so many more because their books are brim full of imagination and transport me to other worlds that feel entirely real and solid.

I didn’t really DECIDE to write for MG – as I said, I started writing for my son who was around 9 or 10 at the time and I realised it was the PERFECT place for me. That age group is a delight to write for, anything is possible and the stories are full of adventure and heart and while they can be dark there’s usually a positive and uplifting aspect too. Previously I’d always tried to write for teens or adults but they always felt stilted and awkward but writing for children was a natural fit so I’m really glad I found my place there!

It’s not easy deciding which ideas to pursue, often I’ll have a few ideas playing around at the same time and I’ll drift between them making notes and thinking. Usually the thing that will start me writing one particular idea is when I find the voice that works. Some projects do shout louder than others but mostly I think ideas are just waiting their turn…my next book is a fresh version of one of the first manuscripts I wrote…the idea was always good, it just needed to wait for a while before it was ready!

I do quite a lot of work on characters – usually I find I have to draft it out once so the characters can reveal themselves a little on the page, then I’ll dig down into their motivations and make sure they hold their own within the story.

I’ve been known to sketch my characters but I’m a terrible artist so I’d never show them to anyone.

I also often do timelines and histories for my world and how my characters fit into it. I think it’s really worth investing time into characters because nothing works without them – the best plot in the world means nothing if your characters don’t inspire and engage the reader.

The idea for Mold came all of a sudden when I was editing another manuscript and demanded my attention. I plotted it out in a day and drafted it in three months and it was huge fun to write.

There is much of me and my own issues in this book.

Some of which were subconscious – eg Mold lives in the Dregs – a close but deprived community of misfits looked down upon by their richer more privileged neighbours – is a barely disguised reference to the council estate where I grew up.

Some of the issues were conscious though – eg Mold has a big nose as do I. Having been teased and self conscious about it most of my life I realised that the media has always portrayed villains as having big noses, while the heroes, most especially the Disney princesses for example have tiny, perfect little noses. I decided to make Mold’s nose special and give him an amazing sense of smell which he must use to help save his guardian Aggy from the hangman’s noose and discover the truth behind the Poison Plot. To make all heroes handsome and villains ugly or disfigured is lazy, dangerous stereotyping and I think children need to see better from us.

There is also a strong theme of diversity and tolerance in the history of Pellegarno and the different people that lived there – I didn’t plan it necessarily but my own feelings seeped through and it soon became an intrinsic part of the story and Mold himself.

Certain elements snuck in and only after it was written did I realise that Mold feeling different to everyone, out of place, looked down upon and not fitting in was actually how it felt for me growing up as a mixed race girl from a council estate. It made me realise that despite leaving the council estate behind when I was 18, I’d never fully left behind those feelings of inferiority.

My champions have been Imogen Cooper at the Golden Egg Academy who first made me feel that I was good enough to be a published writer and then my agent Kate Shaw whose faith in me and my work has given me the confidence to push on past rejections and setbacks and keep writing regardless.

I’m also hugely lucky to have wonderful writer friends who make me laugh, keep me sane when the strangeness of the publishing world threatens to overwhelm me, and bolster my shaky self confidence as necessary.

I just want to say a huge thank you to Lorraine for sharing her story, for her honesty and the hope she inspires for future writers. Also a big thank you to Em Lynas for introducing us.

Lorraine Gregory is the author of “Mold and the Poison Plot” (OUP 2017) – which won the S.C.B.W.I Crystal Kite award for UK and Ireland in 2018 – and the forthcoming “The Maker of Monsters” (OUP May 2019). She co runs the popular, bi monthly #UKMGCHAT on twitter as @authorontheedge and can often be found procrastinating on there about books, toast and cats! You can find out more at https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk

An Interview with Lorraine Gregory Part 1

Lorraine Gregory is the author of Mold and the Poison Plot, a middle-grade novel about being a misfit and finding true friendship. Lorraine is the daughter of an Indian father and an Austrian mother. Raised on an East London Council Estate her local library fed her love of books and though becoming a ‘proper’ author seemed like an impossible dream she started scribbling stories for her son and those tales found their way off the page and into the world.

Having been virtually introduced to Lorraine by my good friend Em Lynas I was keen to find out her writing journey. There is a warmth and honesty in Lorraine’s story that really struck me. I could deeply relate to her description of how disorientating it is to be a working class writer at sea in the social world of publishing. How exhausting it is to try to fake the confidence that is needed to get through events. As well as these intimate glimpses Lorraine’s story is full of uplifting insights into a writing dream made real. It’s incredible and inspiring and Lorraine’s responses to my questions are so generous about the path to becoming a writer, the craft and the industry I’ve split her story into two parts so that you can enjoy over two courses, like a good dinner and pudding, to fill you up ready to set off on your own writing journey in the New Year.

Part 1

Tell me about where you come from? Were stories told in your house? What did you like to do as a child?

My parents were offered council housing when I was two years old. We moved from the cramped furnished apartment with added mice, to a lovely spacious three bedroomed maisonette on a concrete council estate in East London. My parents who’d struggled to manage were thrilled at their good fortune and continued to work as hard as they could to ensure their children had everything they needed.

My mum was from a poverty stricken home in Austria and took full advantage of the local library to ensure my brother and `I were never short of books.

My dad was from Goa in India and we loved listening to his stories of growing up barefoot, running on the beaches and his crocodile “best friend”.

The first book I remember having a huge affect on me was “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Judith Kerr. It’s an extraordinary book and it spoke to me on so many levels. As Anna becomes a refugee from her home in Germany her sense of being different and not fitting in resonated with me.

I loved writing from an early age, scribbling huge adventures that sprung out fully formed. When I wasn’t reading or writing I was out playing on our estate with the other children. The estate was a concrete jungle but that only made it perfect for bikes and roller skates and skateboards!


I went to my local primary and comprehensive schools and enjoyed both. I loved reading and writing at primary and teachers were very encouraging there but at secondary school imagination was less valued I felt and there was little time to write creatively.

I didn’t meet any writers, I never expected to, writers were special, amazing people who were far too busy and important to meet mere mortals.

My local library in Fullwell Cross was an oasis of books with a special, separate children’s library. My mum took us every weekend and every summer we did the reading scheme and it was always one of my favourite spaces. Without it I’d never have been able to afford to read as voraciously as I did and without all that reading I doubt I’d have become a writer.

The current trend of closing libraries is going to impact hugely on children from working class backgrounds and limit their potential.

Did you train to become a writer? What jobs do you do or have you done that aren’t related to writing? What skills do you bring from outside writing to the craft of getting it done?

I have no training whatsoever for writing, except all the reading, film/TV watching and story imagining I’ve done over the years.

I worked in catering after I left school, a brief stint as a dinner lady was followed by a year as a catering assistant, a few years as a chef and then catering manager. After I had my son I began a diploma in antenatal education so I could teach at home and choose my hours. Now the teaching fits in well with my writing and means I have enough time for my family and friends too which is a bonus!

Doing my diploma was really helpful because all the essay’s got me back into the habit of writing and fired up my brain.

It also gave me confidence that I could finish things, work to a deadline and gave me some experience of editing. It’s also been useful for enabling me to be confident enough to stand up in front of people and deliver a workshop or author talk.

Writing Journey

I first started writing again properly for my son. He was a reluctant reader and I had to try really hard to find stories for him to engage with. Once we got through Roald Dahl and Mr Gum I struggled to keep him interested so one day I started scribbling a story down just for him.

When I read it to him later he loved it and was so excited and desperate for more. Every day I’d write a chapter for him and then at bedtime I’d read it to him and he would laugh and bounce around on the bed in excitement. Then we’d discuss what might happen next and it really inspired me to keep writing. (Also if I didn’t write any he would be cross with me and insist I write extra the next day!)

The other factor that contributed to me writing was my health issues. I suffered from repeated disc prolapses that caused constant back pain and made it very hard for me to do much at all. My life narrowed to home and occasional days of work for several years and I needed to find something to occupy me…writing filled that gap and I quickly rediscovered my love for it. I was spurred on by my son whose enthusiasm never wavered and he became my sounding board for my ideas and the first reader of all my work.

My husband supports me. I’m lucky and privileged that he can do so and that he sees the value in my work. With his help I can work part time and find the hours I need to write and promote my work.

Once I started writing I found I couldn’t stop. I wrote quickly, completing a full draft of my first MG (middle-grade)novel in three months or so and then moving on to another. But I knew nothing about editing or how to get published. Luckily I found SCBWI ( society for children’s book writers and illustrators) online and through their workshops and talks I gained an understanding of what was involved.

I think my main barrier has been myself to be honest. The publishing industry is almost inherently white middle class and while everyone I’ve ever met has been lovely and welcoming I often feel like I don’t belong there; that I don’t talk “right”, that I’m not educated enough, that I’m wearing the wrong clothes and I’m convinced someone will realise I’m just a jumped up council estate brat and kick me out!

It feels harder, sometimes, to go to social events, to make conversation with professionals when my childhood consisted of being looked down upon, being seen as “lesser” than the middle class children, being labelled and then judged as one of the “council estate kids”.

I possess none of the inbred confidence that is often found in the privileged, privately educated.

I’m not sure that people realise how difficult it can be to enter the publishing world from a working class background. Publishing is a very sociable business, getting to know other writers, agents and publishers is important and I think that part of it can be a barrier to the working class – standing around in bookshops sipping prosecco while chatting about literature doesn’t necessarily come naturally and could certainly put people off.

I manage to come across as confident and sociable but it’s really just an act.

After every social event I’m racked with self doubt and convinced everyone was secretly talking about me…

But I have to say that the children’s book world is one of the friendliest places to be and, I’ve been told, far more generous and forgiving than other sectors of the book world. I’ve made many friends since I started writing and have found a place in the publishing world where I feel comfortable and happy.

There are many working class writers writing for children now and that is a brilliant thing. If we could get more working class people IN to publishing houses as editors then we might find more working class stories and characters being commissioned.

I think it’s of ever more importance that these changes happen – poverty levels are increasing in the UK, more and more children are homeless and hungry – all the while schools are more and more unable to cope with the decreasing budgets given by the government – and lets not forget that more and more libraries are closing.

Books will become a luxury if we’re not careful and the opportunities I had growing up to improve my social status through education could disappear.

I desperately want more books and stories about working class children, children in poverty, BAME children, to be out there so that children will see themselves and engage in reading which we all know is one of the biggest indicators for a child’s future.

Besides that I think seeing different lives is hugely important for ALL children, to increase their empathy levels and make them aware of the diversity of experiences out there.

The other issue that comes up is that many schools can’t afford author visits now and sometimes it might be the one chance a working class child has of seeing that it’s a possible dream for them. I love going into schools and talking about my experiences and watching their faces light up but I’m worried that author visits will soon become a luxury only known to private schools.

Click here to read Part 2 about how Lorraine found her genre, her voice and her story champions.

Lorraine Gregory is the author of “Mold and the Poison Plot” (OUP 2017) – which won the S.C.B.W.I Crystal Kite award for UK and Ireland in 2018 – and the forthcoming “The Maker of Monsters” (OUP May 2019). She co runs the popular, bi monthly #UKMGCHAT on twitter as @authorontheedge and can often be found procrastinating on there about books, toast and cats! You can find out more at https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk

Two Places and No Places by Nicolas Obregon

When my mum was 18 she went on a student exchange. Spain was still living under Franco’s shadow and its newfound democracy hung in the balance but my mum had simply made friends with a Spanish girl the summer before, my aunt. Now, a year later, she was waiting for her at the airport. But that was the day of the car crash. My aunt survived but it fell to my father to pick my mum up.

Over the course of that summer she fell in love with him, with Madrid itself: its little bars in belle époque neighbourhoods, its ancient, fragrant bakeries, my father’s weird cast of friends, pausing just long enough from trying to pull women at protests to chuck bricks at the police. Then my mum got pregnant. As she wasn’t married, her parents essentially disowned her.

The first house I can remember was the emergency unit in Swiss Cottage. We lived with an Irish woman who’d had a baby with an abusive Egyptian. I still remember the sound of him, standing outside late at night, screaming. I grew up between Madrid and London, back and forth, new start after new start.

Growing up between two cultures and languages gives you so very much.

But being from two places also means you’re from no places.

When my parents finally couldn’t make it work, my mum took me to live in a council flat in Camden. We survived on John Major’s child benefits, eating rice, tinned tuna, tinned veg. My mum cried a lot. It was all I knew, but looking back I can see how hard it must have been for her: young, alone, raising a kid on just a few quid a week.

As I got older, being poor felt like something I had to hide, an embarrassment I didn’t want to inflict on others.

But our council flat was full of gold. Namely, love and books.

As a shy, quiet kid, I’d retreat into the world my mum cultivated for me: sorcerers, pharaohs, hardboiled detectives. Life in Kiln Place soon taught you why the man down the way turned the TV volume all the way up. Why his wife would be wearing sunglasses the next day, even in winter. Why the older brother downstairs, kicked out by his parents, would mug his younger brother for lunch money. My book world felt like a nicer place to be sometimes.

Course, it wasn’t all bad. The Bengali family next door always shared chapatis and smiles.

In the summer, the local pub would play Boy George and Kate Bush on the jukebox, the music mixing in with the rattle of the Silverlink Train above.

And nearby Hampstead Heath was always a green dreamworld to get lost in, especially with a book. I would sit alone in the Hollow Tree, planning Choose Your Own Adventure books. By Year 7, I was writing short stories about detectives: in space, in the future, in video games.

I loved writing, always had, but it was never something I considered viable after school.

Dropping out of uni, I ended up at a temp agency. Skills? the man asked. Writing, I replied. He shrugged. Somehow, I ended up as an intern at a travel magazine. A few months later there was an opening and I was soon being sent abroad to produce destination reports. That meant I was being sent to the south of France and Venice and being paid to write about it! The job itself wasn’t quite the same as the 007 image it conjures but

seeing my own words in print felt like winning the lottery.

For the first time I realised that being published was as much situational as it was a birthright.

I moved into legal publishing, working my way up to become deputy editor. Editing other people’s work really sharpened my own writing skills, helped me to learn economy of language. On my 30th birthday, I went to Japan. While travelling on a bullet train, I had an idea for a story. I started writing and, for the first time, didn’t give up. I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Like doors bursting open, I finally felt ready. I looked up agents and told myself that if none replied, I’d suck it up and quit my dream. Least I’d know I’d had a go. Incredibly, one of the agents took me on and it led to book deals across the UK, US, EU, and beyond.

Now I live in Los Angeles and write full-time. I also mentor in youth incarceration trying to champion writing and creative pursuits as a career path.

I haven’t reached the end of my rainbow and being a full-time author isn’t always a picnic but it’s certainly changed my life and most days I have to pinch myself. There are no absolute truths but I do know this:

nobody will knock on your door and ask you if you want to write.

Nobody is going to give you permission. People will try and discourage you from writing, tell you it won’t lead anywhere, remind you it’s a one in a million. Or, even worse, they will encourage you, even though deep down, you feel they don’t really believe you’ve got a chance in hell. But I want to remind working class writers something: you’ve probably had to be defiant in your life at some point to get where you are today.

Well stay defiant! Bollocks to the doubt.

Doubt is natural but also don’t be afraid of optimism. Feed that hope every day. Listen to advice you get from trusted people but ignore what you need to ignore. Always be yourself, even if you’re not sure you should be. Remember, there isn’t one set path. Above all, never give up. Ever.

If a shit-scared Spanish kid with a cockney accent from Kiln Place can get his name on bookshelves, anyone with a few ideas and some elbow grease can. Write!

Bio: Nicolás is a Londoner, a Madrileño, and an internationally-published author. His first novel, Blue Light Yokohama, was released around the world in 2017 through Penguin Random House, Minotaur/Macmillan, Calmann-Lévy, and Goldmann, among others. The sequel, Sins as Scarlet, will be released in late July 2018 and was declared by New York Times bestselling heavyweight, Jeffery Deaver, as ‘a masterpiece’. He lives in Los Angeles, supports Arsenal (for his sins), and hates writing about himself in the third person.