Chris Vick writes about the sea, adventure and the wonder of magic and stories. His latest novel Girl, Boy, Sea has been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. He *met* Words & Pictures Events Editor Fran Price to chat about his writing process.

FP: Firstly, congratulations on being shortlisted for the Carnegie. How did you feel when you heard?

CV: It took a while to sink in. It was so lovely to be nominated, then long-listed, and I seriously never expected to get shortlisted. So it felt kind of surreal, but yes, lovely and weirdly calm too.

Like so many SCBWI writers, I’ve been through swells and waves of rejections, drafts, insecurities, hopes raised, hopes dashed etc. over many years. Like being in an ever-changing, unceasing storm. But suddenly it all felt very peaceful. In short; very good indeed, I cannot lie.

FP: How much field research did you do for Girl, Boy, Sea?

CV: Quite a lot. Several trips to Morocco, though with the early visits I didn’t know they were research 😊

This involved simply being there, and noting and writing about the land and the sea, but also exploring and finding out a bit about Berber culture. I also dived right into 1,001 Nights, as it influenced the book a fair bit. And of course, I also used the great resource of the armchair traveller: the internet.

FP: Tea or coffee?

CV: Coffee to start (very strong!), then tea. After 12 it’s hippy tea only.

FP: Has the pandemic affected your writing in any way?

CV: I didn’t think so, but with the wisdom of hindsight, yes. I’m writing – partly — about nature and the ecological crisis in my WIP, and in particular one family and how they have to rethink their lives when forced to cope with sudden changes. So I guess I’ve channeled some of the angst and what we’re all going through, and what I’m seeing and feeling every day, into my WIP. Because writers do that all the time anyway, right? At least, I think I do.

FP: Typical writing day: how much time do you spend? When’s your favourite time for writing?

CV: How much time depends on circumstances. Sometimes a half day or more, sometimes a snatched half hour. But one habit remains constant: I wake up, I read for a bit, I have a coffee, then I write. Before I do anything else.

Tales from 1,001 Nights featured in Chris's novel.

FP: Choccy biccies or trail mix?

CV: All of the above, plus whatever else I can find, (but only ever after I’ve written). I’m really greedy, so I try and counterbalance wolfing snacks with exercise later in the day. I’m not sure I’m succeeding. 

FP: What’s the space like where you write? Room with a view?

CV: I have written, and do write, in a huge variety of places. Yes, room with a view is the most common. But café, train, beach or bed also favoured.

FP: What about the promotional aspects during lockdown?

CV: I’ve done some and I’m doing some school workshops on Zoom. I need to do more, but I’m also focusing on drafting my WIP. CILIP do amazing promotional things for the Carnegie, and my publishers, Zephyr (Head of Zeus) are really great too. I’m very lucky.

FP: What are you working on now?

CV: A story of three generations of one family, who all have a deep connection with nature, and in particular the young people in these families, who have to make some very hard choices. It’s quite strange and not very linear, but I’m really enjoying writing it and that’s usually a good sign.

Chris (pictured third from left) on a whale-watching trip with his colleagues from
Whale and Dolphin Conservation. (Picture credit: Lana Hall)

FP: Music or silence?

CV: Music is probably even more important to my writing process than the aforementioned coffee and biscuits. I’d listen all the time if I could. However, whilst it makes a great backdrop to writing a first draft and is perfect for invoking places, moods and emotions, when I’m re-drafting I really have to have silence and think about how the words and sentences flow, and music can get in the way of that.

FP: You took the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa. How did that influence your writing career?

Like so many writers, I’ve been through swells and waves of rejections, drafts, insecurities, hopes raised, hopes dashed ... Like being in an ever changing, unceasing storm

CV: I don’t have the space here to talk about how great it is, or how important it was to me personally. I wish I could do it all again.

Suffice to say, I wouldn’t have a book on the Carnegie shortlist or even have been published unless I’d gone on the course. They really know what they are doing, because they're great writers first and foremost, but also great teachers and great managers and handlers of people too.

My writing became simpler, clearer and much more effective under the tutors’ guidance. They also helped me find that elusive thing, my ‘voice,’ as they have done for so many others. I can’t say enough good things about them. As well as the course itself, and the tutors, it’s also great because (like SCBWI) it puts you into a community. As one fellow student said after the first day of the MA: ‘I’ve found my tribe.’

*Header image: from Chris Vick's phone.


Chris Vick spent years working in whale and dolphin conservation and a lot of time surfing before enrolling on the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People. He has written four books, published in several countries.


Fran Price
is Events Editor for Words & Pictures online magazine. She is currently working on her middle grade novel The Wallpaper Diaries. Being part of CampNaNoWriMo and GEA is helping to keep her focussed. Contact her at

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