When I was younger I loved what we now call extreme sports : biking, motor-biking, rock climbing, skiing and generally taking physical risks. But my body has not been reliable for some years and so it is through my Y.A. novels that I revisit the adventures of my past in my imagination.
The third book in my Hayling cycle, STUFFED, will be published by Albury Books, Feb 2014. This is the outline :-
Jess is fifteen, Ryan is seventeen and they are falling in love. But each is keeping a terrible secret from the other. On a weekend away rock climbing they move closer until a terrifying incident drives a new wedge between them. Can Jess save her family from Dad’s mistakes and will Ryan resolve his mess from the past? If not, then their loved is doomed to failure.
I wanted the third book in the cycle to focus on a teenage relationship, something I am quite interested in writing about. Ryan has an older friend, Max and it seemed quite natural to make him a rock-climber. As the character of Max developed I thought, why not send all the teens away on a climbing weekend and then make something memorable and life-changing happen?
Excellent! Just the kind of drama I love when writing a novel.
It's a very long time since I’ve been up a rock face and so I decided to consult the experts. I started with an indoor climbing wall where I met Mark ‘Zippy’ Pretty, one of the best climbing coaches and route-setters in the UK today. Zippy happily spent an hour going over possible scenarios and demonstrating moves for me on the climbing wall.
I realised how much I had missed climbing and the climbing community which is rather old fashioned, respectful and very supportive. So with a bit of persuasion I had a go. I did a simple climb up the wall and walked back down. I wasn’t prepared to repeat the experience – not with my joints! But it was a great reminder of how it feels to climb.
However, I’m not used to indoor climbing and much prefer being in the outdoors. So Zippy suggested that I go up to Derbyshire and talk to the climbers and instructors up there. I jumped at the idea. I used to climb on the gritstone edges such as Stanage Edge and I was excited at the prospect of revisiting the climbs of my student days. Going back to Derbyshire let me observe many different climbers, including young people and reminded me of the fear and the adrenalin of climbing vertically up a rock face, defying gravity and the enormous exhilaration of reaching the top, however easy the climb.
Once I started my research I realised that equipment has changed so much since my day. When I climbed as a student we simply tied a rope round our waists and went up; no helmets or harnesses. Now I realise how dangerous it was. At least we wore plimsolls. The generation before us went up in their leather lace up brogues!
I had a brilliant time in the Derbyshire air, taking photos and talking to climbers and instructors. It was some of the best research I’ve done in years. The climbing chapters in STUFFED really came alive for me and they almost wrote themselves when I came home
I’m researching freestyle sprint Olympic swimming for my current work in progress. Sport will always play an important role in my Y.A. novels.
Albury books will be publishing in physical and e-books all three books in the Hayling cycle and I am beginning a series of events all through this year to promote the books, while I finish my current novel.
You can find out more about my books and events on my website : www.miriamhalahmy.com