EVENTS Industry Insiders: Writing Other Lives

Have you written about ‘what you know’ until you’re blue in the face? Taking up your pen to write of the ‘other’ - characters from worlds so different from your own they make your mind boggle - is an intriguing prospect. But how to do it in an authentic, convincing and sensitive way - and find your true voice in the process? The next panel of London Industry Insiders, on 3rd July, will be discussing just that.

Authors Candy Gourlay and Lisa Williamson will be talking with editor Bella Pearson of David Fickling Books.

Author of The Art of Being Normal, Lisa Williamson.

Both authors have extensive experience of writing about characters from different backgrounds to their own.

It took Candy Gourlay, whose latest novel Bone Talk will be released in August 2018, many years to find her voice and not simply to write what she thought she should write. ‘One of the turning points for me as a writer was when I stopped writing 'what I know' and began writing 'who I am’,’ says Candy.

Author of Bone Talk Candy Gourlay.

‘Until that moment, I was trying to write the story that I thought the market wanted and it was only when I allowed my self to be on display in my writing that I found my voice as an author.’

But what about writing about a character that is different from you?

‘Getting into the head of any character requires a kind of daily surrender. This is the most difficult part of writing. Stepping out of the domestic details of your real world into the character's world,’ says Candy.

‘Embracing the character. Being in the moment with the character - which isn’t possible to achieve without having done the research needed for the world around the character to come alive too without need of explanation.

A real person does not explain his world to himself, he just lives it. If a character is to become real, the writer has to stop explaining and start being

‘A real person does not explain his world to himself, he just lives it. If a character is to become real, the writer has to stop explaining and start being. It requires commitment. And a forgetting of one's self – of the writer laying down words, of the adult putting out a message, of the teacher offering a lesson. And that is why writing a character that is not like one's self is so difficult, because the soul you are trying to inhabit is different, you spend a lot of time trying to explain and justify.’

* Words and Pictures will be reporting on this event later in July.

* Writing Other Lives is being held in room 106, City Lit, Keeley Street, London. Doors open 6.30 pm, talk starts at 7pm Tickets cost £12 for SCBWI members, £18 for non-members. For more info, go to the event page, or book here.


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words and Pictures magazine. When she's not writing picture books or editing her middle grade novel, she works in a tiny school in rural Somerset. You can contact her at

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