Sarah de Waard talks to author Alice Broadway about her successful debut novel, the first of a captivating young adult trilogy

It’s not often that a first-time writer makes a large publishing house sit up and take notice, but for author Alice Broadway, this dream became a reality when she sent out copies of the first draft of her novel and was immediately approached by several literary agents.

Several months later she had agreed a publishing deal for The Skin Books Trilogy with Scholastic, and the first book, “Ink”, hit the shelves of all major booksellers in February this year.

Alice, who lives in Chorley, is the first to admit that it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. “It’s something that, like many people, I’ve always dreamed of doing,” she tells me. “When the youngest of my three children started school, I decided the time was right to give it a real go. I had been toying with the idea for the book for several years and so I dedicated a year to writing it, sent it to a handful of agents and since then I just haven’t stopped.”

Ink tells the story of 16-year-old Leora, and is set in a world where each character’s life story is tattooed onto their skin. After death, the skin of those deemed worthy is preserved in books, which each generation keeps in their homes. Those who refuse to be tattooed, named Blanks, are forced to live beyond the city walls as outcasts. When Leora loses her father, she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, and embarks on a journey to discover the truth about his past.

“It’s a really exciting time for YA (young adult) fiction”, Alice tells me. “The younger generation are reading more than ever and the best YA authors are covering some really contemporary themes such as gender, identity, mental health and sexuality, without preaching or being condescending.

“Young adult fiction really resonates with me. It’s what I enjoy reading and there is a realness and accessibility to it that the audience is incredibly responsive to. It’s been a joy to go into schools and to events and speak to the people who read my books and really get to understand what they want from an author and how reading can affect their lives in such a positive way.”

“For me, writing Ink was a very cathartic process, a way of processing the thoughts and feelings that I was having about death, judgement and the afterlife, and how I felt about my own faith.”

While suffering from depression and facing the challenges of raising a child with complex learning difficulties, Alice found solace in writing, and used the themes of the book to work through the changes in her own belief system.

“It was a dream that I had about Ancient Egyptians and their relationship with death, combined with my own ideas of the afterlife, that sparked the idea for Ink,” Alice explains.

“I began to think about how we shy away from talking about loss and grief in our culture, right down to how we dispose of bodies when we die. I imagined a world where people could see each other’s lives recorded on their skin, and after their death their skin became the story of that life, preserved forever and cherished, rather than discarded and hidden away.”

Alice admits she often has to pinch herself now that she’s a full-time writer. “It’s what I always wanted to do. In many ways, I see myself in my main character Leora, both a little shy and lacking in confidence but with the urge to do something great with our lives and the passion to follow our dreams.”

Alice will be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival this summer where she will hold a workshop on writing for resilience for young people, and will take part in a panel event held by Edinburgh University about resilience and mental health with author Juno Dawson. Ink has also been entered into the prestigious First Book Award.

Ink has been translated into 15 languages, and the second two books will be released in 2018 and 2019



Tedd Walmsley

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