By Graham Chalmers
It’s not often a ‘young novelist’ turns out to be a grandparent but that’s the case with a Harrogate woman who has just become a debut author with a compelling contemporary teen drama.
Writing in the Sand, which is available in local bookshops now, is the first-ever novel by Helen Brandom, who was formerly a primary school teacher.
But it’s fair to say it’s not the first piece of writing for Helen; she’s previously written for several TV series and major BBC Radio 4 dramas.
And her black comedy, A Bit of Royal Albert won Best Production when performed by Harrogate Dramatic Society in the Nidderdale Drama Festival.
Out now on Usborne Publishing, Writing in the Sand was inspired by a Radio 4 programme Helen heard on children carers.
The novel tells the story of young carer Amy , a 16-year-old girl who is well used to keeping secrets - about her mum’s illness, her own irresponsible sister and her ex-boyfriend.
This young adult novel really takes off when she discovers a new-born baby is left on her best friend’s doorstep.
It has to be said the first person voice of a troubled teenager may not seem like the most obvious choice for a grandparent debut author.
Then, Helen is no stranger to getting under the skin of diverse characters.
Her wide-ranging literary CV includes stage, radio and TV credits.
Among many other examples, she has written a distracted middle-aged woman trying clean a filthy house and cook for a dinner party in her play for Radio 4’s Wind of Change - with Alison Steadman playing the woman.
On writing her current main character, Helen said: “’I listened to a radio programme recently where it stated it’s been proven that our memories from 15-25 years of age are the clearest of our lives.
“Though nothing as awful as Amy’s experiences happened to me, during those years I went from exactly 15 and first love, through to marriage and having our first child. I remember it all as clear as a bell.”
The Harrogate grandmother’s writing has already been praised for her beautifully subtle and sensitive writing style and her elegant plotting.
Her main literary influences are non-English - American author Anne Tyler and Carol Shields, who hails from Canada.
Helen said: “I identify with their family plots, sharply drawn characters and original plots. They never ‘over write’ and they credit us with finding time to enjoy their beautiful prose.”
Signed copies of Writing in the Sand by Helen Brandom are available at Waterstones in Harrogate now.
For more information, visit www.usborne.com