Tuesday, 30 November 2010

What do I do for the next four years?

For the past four years of my life I have been writing my Hayling Cycle of three novels. I'm not sure when it turned into a cycle, but sometime during the writing of the first novel, Hidden, I had a wonderful idea for a second novel. At that point I decided that two was too symmetrical and I had to write three. So sometime during 2006 the ideas for the three novels were born. The inspiration for the second novel was a minor character, Lindy, who I felt had an important story to tell. So Lindy became the major character in the second novel, Illegal. During the writing of the second novel, another character, Jess presented herself as having a lot more to say. Jess is the main character of the third novel, Stuffed. In this way my cycle was born, all set on Hayling Island and featuring a rotating cycle of characters.

I started writing fiction for children and young people quite by accident. I pitched to Cancerbackup when they put out a call in 2004 for a children's writer. I was a published author and poet by then and had also taught terminally ill children. When they asked for a sample of writing they really liked what I sent them.
Peppermint Ward came out in 2006 and has gone all round the world, helping children and their families understand a diagnosis of cancer. Its one of the publications I feel most proud of.
You can find out more about the book at this link.

But once I started writing for children it felt like a tap had turned on. I pitched a story to Tony Bradman for his anthology, Give me Shelter,Francis Lincoln 2007 and he loved my contribution, Samir Hakkim's Healthy Eating Diary. It was from this short story that the first novel in my Hayling Cycle, Hidden, grew.
 Samir arrives at Heathrow as an unaccompanied asylum seeking child and is taken into care. He writes his diary to try and understand what has happened to him. The anthology was shortlisted for the UKLA Award, 2008.
We meet Samir again in Hidden. He is four years older but still an outsider in England. He becomes friendly with Alix, an English girl. Together they discover an illegal immigrant washed up on a Hayling beach and hide him to save him from being deported.

Meanwhile Tony Bradman put together another anthology on climate change, Under the Weather Francis Lincoln, 2009 and took my story, Tommo and the Bike Train. I love writing short fiction and I love writing to a brief. And so it felt right to take breaks from the novels from time to time to have a go at something different. I was also still very much a wannabee, without an agent or a publisher for my Y.A. novels and so getting published in anthologies was hopefully a good way to get myself noticed.
Tony Bradman has told me that over 15 of his anthology authors have gone on to publish novels. How lucky we were to have the support of this generous and talented author.

In 2009 I was approached by the BBC. I had been recommended to them by Cancerbackup. They needed an author for a booklet to explain the switch over from analogue to digital TV. I also had to find an illustrator and had the good fortune to work with the talented, David O'Connell. This time I had to learn how to write comic style - a completely different way of writing a story. Our booklet has gone all round the UK helping people with special needs understand how to cope with the nationwide change to digital.

It has taken me four years to complete my Hayling Cycle. I have a great agent, Eve White and excellent publishers, Meadowside. I just have to plan what to do next, I suppose.


  1. Just wanted to say "Congratulations"! I think after four years, it's now time to breathe and relax... which I'm sure will then result in a new idea for yet another project... :o)

  2. A special moment - enjoy! Am sure it won't last long before more story is pouring from your pen....

  3. Thanks Tina and Kath, well, I do have a couple of ideas brewing.....

  4. Congrats! What an amazing journey. Can't wait to hear about your next project!

  5. Brew them in the bath! I get and develop most of my ideas under a mountain of frothy bubbles. As soon as they've developed an underwater computer then life will be perfect :)
    Congratulations and well done, you must be very satisfied but feeling a bit weird too.

  6. Lovely post, Miriam. (And I didn't know about the BBC booklet either). I'm really looking forward to reading your Hayling Cycle and to hearing about what comes next!

  7. Well done, Miriam! Am looking forward to reading HIDDEN in March!

  8. Planning my next 'project' in the bath! Thanks for your comments folks, I always have new ideas brewing, the skill is to choose the right one and stick at. Yikes!

  9. Well done Miriam! I can't wait to read your books - I grew up in Havant and went to comp school in Hayling! Now I write YA and PB and live in Northern Californian - still pretty close to the sea!

  10. That's great Keely. I'd love to hear more. Why not email me via my website : www.miriamhalahmy.com.

  11. only four years, Miriam and three books on top of everything else you do! I'll be reading Hidden - your reading at the retreat was a real teaser (and that's three readings in one sentence...I still have work to do on my writing).

  12. Well done for reaching that mark. I am sure you will think of something to write pretty soon.

  13. Thanks Sue and Julie, great to hear from you.


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