Kobo Writing Life and Curtis Brown Creative, the UK-based writing school run by London’s leading literary agency, launched the Kobo Writing Life Scholarship this past spring, choosing one talented writer to receive a full scholarship to the three-month Writing For Children course. That talented writer is Callum Church.
We asked Callum a few questions about himself, his writing, and his impressions of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course:
When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
I loved writing stories at school and the freedom it gave you to create new worlds, to explore crazy ideas. I read White Fang by Jack London when I was about eleven and that’s the first time I remember a book really captivating me – the feeling of being transported to an unfamiliar, dangerous world and being gripped page after page. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks also had a big impact on me – I have always been drawn to darker fiction and enjoy a good bit of menace – and this more than any other book helped kick-start my serious writing ambitions.
What do you write? What is your current work-in-progress?
The book I’m developing through the course is a middle-grade novel called Shadog, about an eleven-year-old boy who conjures a dog out of shadow to help him through difficult times. His granddad is dying and a bully is making his life hell, but Shadog proves to be a darker force than he realised and is not the simple answer to his problems that he at first thought. As Shadog’s power begins to get out of control, so begins an adventure where the boy has to confront his deepest fears before he can move on in his life.
What do you read? What’s the relationship between your reading life and your writing life?
I read a wide range of books – from YA and science fiction to thrillers and more literary works. My favourite author is probably Cormac McCarthy, but in children’s fiction I’m a big fan of Charlie Higson, Patrick Ness and Philip Reeve. I’ve always had a love of folk and fairy tales, particularly the darker side and how they play on our most deep-rooted fears. I firmly believe that the more you read, the better your own writing will become.
Did you find the CBC course Writing For Children valuable?
I have been writing for many years and over that time built up a toolbox of tips and techniques when approaching a work of fiction. However, it was not long into the course when I realised that not only were many of these tools rusty, but that there were many better tools that I wasn’t aware of. What the course has taught me more than anything is that plot comes out of character – if you get the character right first and completely understand their conflicts and flaws, then the decisions they make will dictate the plot. This has certainly made me look at my own work more closely and everything is starting to make a lot more sense.
Callum Church, father of four, home-educates his youngest child and has been writing for many years, mainly screenplays and half-finished novels, but was drawn to writing children’s fiction having read so much with his own children. He has written one other YA novel about a half-demon teenager but all his current efforts are concentrated on completing Shadog. He has had work shortlisted by the BBC and also the A&C Black novel writing competition.
Applications are now open for the next course at Curtis Brown Creative: a three-month novel-writing course, held at their London, UK office. Get your applications in by September 2nd!
If you aren’t going to be in London in September, the Curtis Brown Creative Online Novel-Writing Course, has opened applications now as well (although it’s not part of the KWL Scholarship program).