A CHILDREN’S author from Uttoxeter has revealed how her role as a school librarian inspired her to write and publish her first novel.
Alex Foulkes, 29, was school librarian and teaching assistant at Oldfields Hall Middle School when she was challenged by one of the pupils to write a vampire book for their age group.
Her debut novel, Rules for Vampires, was a hit among literary agents and swiftly secured a book deal with a major publishing company.
She started a full-time career as an author in March and as well as touring schools across the UK, is working on the second book in the series, Rules for Ghosts.
Alex, 29, is originally from Stoke-on-Trent and has written stories since she was little.
Now living in Uttoxeter with her partner, Tristan Bland, Alex was in the library at Oldfields Hall when a Year 7 pupil asked her to write a novel.
Alex said: “This young man asked me ‘will you write us a vampire story?’ because he’d run out of stuff to read. Vampire books for children tend to be either really quite young like Isadora Moon, or the teenage vampires like Twilight.
“The middle ground series for ages 9-12 are there – Darren Shan and Scream Street are popular – but it was October and most of the spooky books had been taken out.
“I said yes, but in my head, I thought there was no way, I was too busy and everyone knows writing for kids is really hard – if they don’t like it after the first page, they will just put it down.
“But I came home and started to write it – I had the first image in my head and built up from there.”
Six months later, Alex had a completed first draft and decided to take the plunge and approach literary agents. In a dream scenario, she not only received offers from six different agencies, but was able to sign with Caroline Walsh at David Higham Associates – who counts Jacqueline Wilson and Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, among her writers.
After working with editor Catherine Coe, a two-book deal was agreed with publisher Simon & Schuster, illustrations were added by award-winning illustrator Sara Ogilvie and Rules for Vampires was released on 16 September.
Alex added: “That first week is so important, and I think I would’ve been nothing without our town and our community. I think it would have been very hard for me, as a tiny drop in the ocean – having that support here is really what made me.
“Our WH Smiths in town is amazing and the booksellers there are fantastic. I haven’t seen it in any other WH Smiths yet, but it is in Waterstones and in Books and Banter at Stapenhill.”
After a two-week book tour in September – starting with a launch event at Oldfields Hall – Alex now spends her working life writing and visiting schools across the country with interactive sessions based around Rules for Vampires.
She said: “The talks are almost a cross between a school assembly and a stand-up comedy routine.
“The kids really respond to it and it’s amazingly humbling to stand there and watch them coming in carrying copies of my book.
“Book two is due out in September 2022 and I’m hoping that there will be a book three, but we’ll have to see.
“It might be that I can do this for a long time, it might be that I can do it for a short time. But it’s out there now and no one can take that away. With how far we’ve come, I’m happy with that.”
While Alex credits Oldfields Hall Middle School and the wider Uttoxeter community for their early support, praise for her book has also come from further afield, with popular children’s author, David Walliams, tweeting a photo of himself reading Rules for Vampires last month.
Alex said: “My partner Tristan has been my rock throughout this and when he said to me ‘you’ll want to see this’ I just couldn’t believe it. It was a weird moment. It was so surreal to have that happen and completely not knowing about it!”
Rules for Vampires is available to buy online and in book shops, and can be borrowed for free from Uttoxeter Library.
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