Thursday 25th November 2010 by C. Freeman
Violent knife crime and the witness protection programme inspired Keren David’s first book ‘When I Was Joe’. Keren was a journalist with The Independent, which gave her a professional insight into such hard-hitting topics. After living in Amsterdam she returned to the UK and started writing children’s fiction at an evening class. Now, two years later, she has had two books published and completed a third.
Keren said: ‘When you are working as a news reporter there are interesting and extreme things happening to ordinary people. That is a gift to a writer of novels because you know so many stories about so many people. Novel writing was daunting because I wasn’t used to the freedom of having blank pages and having to make things up. It was exciting but also intimidating.’
‘When I was Joe’ and ‘Almost True’ tell the story of Ty, a 14-year-old who witnesses a knife crime meaning he and his mother have to be taken into the witness protection programme for their own safety, losing their identities in the process. Keren’s next book is different; ‘Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery’ is 'an upbeat, funny romance' due out in August next year.
Keren doesn’t plan each chapter in detail: ‘It is like a cruise; you know your start point, you know your destination and you know some stops along the way but you don’t know what is going to happen on board ship, that is how it works for me! Coming from a journalism background to writing books has been amazing because it is like creating a new identity for myself. I write about this boy who is given this new identity and I have done that for myself in writing the books. It is a parallel process.’
She aims to produce 1,000 words per day and completed the first draft of When I Was Joe around three months. She showed the manuscript of her first novel to a barrister to make sure the police procedure and courtroom scenes were accurate: ‘When writing about serious subjects you certainly want the legal aspects to be right.’
Keren spoke in both assemblies and led writing workshops with students from Years 8, 9 and 11. She had an informal book signing session and also met with reading groups from both Brooke Weston and our sister school, Corby Business Academy, who were invited along.
‘With the Y11 students I did exactly the same plot planning exercise that I had done at night classes when I started out, weaving characters together. They were great and came up with some really good ideas in groups and pairs. With Years 8 and 9 we worked on creating characters. They were very responsive. If students want to become authors I would say believe in your own voice, don’t be too self-conscious or embarrassed, give it a go, don’t be too hard on yourself, write a little bit every day and give yourself time to think about it.'