Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Post: Carol Hedges "Write What You Know"

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Carol Hedges, author of the YA novel Jigsaw Pieces available now on Amazon.

‘He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’

Annie Skjaerstad had been searching for her identity since being uprooted from her native country of Norway. With a spiky personality winning her no friends, and family members suddenly torn out of her life, she is left seeking comfort from a growing intrigue into the stories of fallen war heroes.

But one day, a boy from her school unexpectedly commits suicide, changing things forever. Confused by the tragic tale of someone she knew, Annie soon finds herself conducting her own investigation into his death. 

What she uncovers will bring her to a dark and dangerous place, as suddenly – her own life is put at risk.


Carol Hedges has written 11 novels for teens and YA. She has one daughter, now left home. She lives in the UK with her husband, two cats and a pink vintage car.

Take it away, Carol!


First off, can I say a big British "thank you" to Kelly for generously hosting me on her lovely blog.

"Write about what you know" is the advice given to all writers, and it's definitely the reason I write about strong women, and not giant spiders on Mars. It's also why, at the beginning of Jigsaw Pieces, my first YA ebook on Amazon Kindle, there is a sentence that says: "Not all the events and characters are fictitious". Some people have asked me about this, because it isn't the usual thing you read. So I'd like to share a couple of events that prompted me to write the story.

I was on my first teaching practice. I was retraining as a teacher so that I could fund my daughter through uni. One Monday, I arrived in the staffroom, lesson plans clutched nervously in shaky hand, to discover a strange silence. Nobody was speaking, or making eye contact. Curious, I asked my mentor what was going on, to be told that over the weekend, a student had committed suicide. Nobody knew why.

I remember exactly how it felt as the news ripped round the school. And something inside me said: one day, you have to write about this; it is important. Thus "Grant Penney's" death became the central plot line for the book. As you read the initial chapters, you are seeing and hearing exactly what I experienced.

But I didn't want Jigsaw Pieces to be a totally tragic story. And so I gave the narrative to Annie Skaerstad, a feisty Norwegian 19 year old - a kind of teenaged Lisbeth Salander. She is based on a couple of girls I taught in my first job. Streetwise, sassy, and full of attitude, they gave me and everyone else a hard time!

They had a big thing about 'respect' - something they felt teachers never gave them, which was why they did not give it back. I struggled to connect with them, was sure I'd failed. But then, unexpectedly, at the end of the last lesson before study leave, they dropped a card on my desk as they left. Inside was a single word: Respect.

And so a book was born.

What about you? Do you write what you know?

46 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me on your sire, Kelly

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    1. You're very welcome. I was just about to email you the link. :)

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  2. I think you got 'cool' status, Carol. Well done, you. The book sounds really intriguing, based on your experience. Love the cover! :) xx

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  3. Sounds like an interesting book. Love hearing about the backstory. Thanks.

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    1. Yeah, backstory is always fun to read about.

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  4. Powerful story . I teach college students and a few years ago there was a girl who ODed. I was not her teacher, but kids in my class were her dorm mates and greatly impacted. The story you wrote sounds like one that teens will want to read.

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    1. I agree, Catherine. Unfortunately, many people can relate to this.

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  5. Wow, very nice! I enjoyed this piece. I have been too close to several suicides and it is a topic I would like to write about someday as well. Carol, how nice that you morphed that into a fictional story - I like that idea. Kelly, thanks for introducing us to Carol.

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    1. You're welcome, Cindy. I'm glad you enjoyed her post.

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  6. I think this is why we see so many people coming out with memoirs. Sounds intriguing.

    My daughter had a friend from school "attempt" hanging himself. It is an awful experience, but reality.

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    1. Very true. It's sad that this is a common experience for many, but I think that's why it needs to be talked about in books. Kids need to know they aren't alone and others have been through this too.

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  7. I think we have to write, at least in part, about the FEELINGS we know (or can imagine). And be inspired by true events and real people, always.

    Sounds like a very interesting book and subject, as well as a very important one.

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    1. Yes, it's a very important subject. I agree.

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  8. Great question ! My WIP came from an emotional imperative, straight from my experience. This was tricky. I told myself the characters were pure invention but I was so close to the emotional issues of the story that it has taken years to sort out their motives & form a coherent plot. Wish I was capable of writing slick fast books!

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    1. I know what you mean. Writing from experience can bring up huge emotions that we as writers need to sort through to write the story.

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  9. This book sounds so fascinating. One thing that struck me about the post is Carol's disclaimer: "Not all the events and characters are fictitious". I have always wondered why, when so many writers do draw from their lives, why I've never seen this before!
    As for me, I've finally written a YA ballet novel (still revising). Ballet was my first career, wonderful and painful in turns--it's taken me years to feel ready to write about it.

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    1. That's great, Lisa! Congrats to you. :)

      I've wonder that too about Carol's disclaimer. So many writers do pull from their lives.

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  10. Wow, Carol, great post! And hi to everyone from very near the Olympics!
    I wish I could say I write what I know, as my books feature insights into the hearts and minds of Jane Austen's heroes. I can but dream ...

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  11. What a really great post, and this books looks intriguing!

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  12. I think all of us write a bit of what we know, even if it isn't quite so obvious as this story. Kudos to you for taking a tragedy and turning it into something beautiful.

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  13. "Jigsaw Pieces" sounds like a wonderful book. This sentences.. 'He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’ caught my eye. Reminded me how sometimes things happen, and by the time we think about acting on them, the chance is gone. Congrats, Carol for Jigsaw Pieces!

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    1. That is a really powerful line. Full of emotion.

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  14. I got intrigued at the suicide and investigation thread. This sounds like a moving story, Kelly & Carol. I love the theme of Respect, too. This has always been a huge value I try to bring around with me all the time. Congrats on the book!

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    1. Yes, Carol touched on some really important topics with this book.

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  15. I do and I don't. In everything I write there are pieces of me. My first book was born from the relationships in my life. The story, which is not my own, came from what I thought I knew but when I finished typing the last page I had one of those moments where I realized I had learned something about myself and writing. This my characters taught me. Now as I write the second book, I am curious to see what will reveal itself to me as I make my way to the last page. So yes, I write what i know, but I am not limited by what's not yet learned.

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    1. I love how you put that. Our characters really can teach us a lot about ourselves. The relationships we have with them can be a lot like our relationships with friends, bringing out sides of us we didn't know we had.

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  16. Thanks for all your input, people.

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    1. Thanks again for guest posting, Carol!

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  17. Thanks for introducing me to Carol and Jigsaw Pieces.

    I get story ideas watching my students, but I wouldn't explicitly write about them. I get ideas for issues and get the inspiration for teen voices.

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  18. Wow, that was powerful! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences with us, Carol. It's amazing to see how anything you experience can be written into a story, and you'd never know someone actually went through the same feelings and emotions.

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  19. First of all- I can't wait to read Jigsaw. It sounds like a powerful book and I am very intrigued by it. I found the background from the story fascinating. I think because Carol wrote about what she knew that the story will sound more authentic. I like to use things that have happened in real life in my stories. I write what I know, and I throw in some other elements to spice things up. :)

    Fabulous guest post!
    ~Jess

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    1. I agree that the story will sound more authentic since Carol experienced it. I just downloaded it on my Kindle and am looking forward to diving in.

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  20. Great post, Carol.

    In answer to your question, I write in a different genre, but try to keep it a very real world sensibility.

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  21. I enjoy hearing the story behind the story. Real life is full of deas for writers. The idea for my latest YA novel came from an article in he newspaper.

    Nice to meet you, Carol. Congratulations on all your books.

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    1. Using the newspaper for inspiration is such a great idea, Beverly.

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  22. Wonderful guest post. Write what you know is key to good storytelling. I loved reading how she developed the idea for the book.

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  23. I think when you start writing you are aware that everything you see or hear may end up in a story,it makes life more interesting.

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