12 March 2019

Polly Crosby: ‘There is nothing like a deadline to focus creativity’

Polly Crosby, author
by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students

Polly Crosby was a student on our 6-week online Write to the End of Your Novel course and joined our 6-month online novel-writing course with Lisa O’Donnell in 2018 after being awarded the Yesterday Scholarship (generously funded by author Felicia Yap). Felicia and the CBC team were instantly enchanted by Polly’s writing when her application came in, and we were delighted to get the news last week that Polly’s debut The Illustrated Child had been sold to HarperCollins UK and US in an amazing two book deal

Read on to find out more about Polly’s path from scholarship student to Bridport prize runner-up to publication.

Congratulations on your fantastic UK and US deals for your debut novel The Illustrated Child – what was the first thing you did when you found out your novel was going to be published?
Well, I was walking round the supermarket when my agent called to say there had been quite a lot of interest in the manuscript, and by the end of the day, the deal had been done! It all happened so quickly, and when she closed the deal that evening, I had been sitting at home, staring into space, unable to function. After I found out, I just paced around the house, not quite believing it. I still can’t quite take it all in! Luckily, I had picked up a bottle of just-in-case champagne at the supermarket earlier…

You were awarded the Yesterday Scholarship, funded by author Felicia Yap, to work on The Illustrated Child on our 6-month online novel-writing course in 2018. What did this scholarship place mean to you?
Oh my goodness. To know that someone has such faith in you that they’re willing to invest their money in your writing journey is pretty spectacular. Felicia herself was given a similar opportunity in her education, and she wanted to ‘pay it forward’. I think this is such a fabulous idea, and I intend to pay my own good fortune forward too. I can’t say too much yet, but look out for some news from The Bridport Prize this April.

You worked closely with your tutor Lisa O’Donnell throughout the course – when did you have your ‘I know where this story needs to go’ moment?
Lisa was the perfect tutor for me – she got me and my novel, and she wasn’t scared to push me to my limits. When I started the course, I had written the very basics of the novel, but what the course did was teach me how to turn it from a collection of ideas into a fully stitched together story. Lisa is so creative, she got me thinking far more darkly than I had before! The resultant novel is, I hope, dark and haunting, bittersweet and a little bit magical.

Many of our students find their writing tribe on our courses – are you still in touch with any of your course mates?
I keep in touch with a lot of the people I met over both courses via Facebook, and I email a few who made a big impression on me. The lovely thing about the online courses is you meet people from all over the world.

Since taking the course you’ve been swept off on a whirlwind journey: you were shortlisted for the Bridport prize, you signed with your agent and now you have a two book deal with HarperCollins (UK and US) – can you talk us through how you stayed focused on your novel throughout all the excitement?
It all seems to have happened so quickly, but in actual fact, I got the idea for The Illustrated Child quite a few years ago, and played with the story on and off for a long time. By the time I got my book deal, the hardest work had been done. The most difficult thing has been the limbo-like waiting whilst contracts are negotiated and press releases written! To distract myself, I’ve spent my time working on my next novel, and I am very proud to say I finished the first draft a week ago!

Any writing tips for authors who are just starting out?
My tip would be to enter competitions and apply for writing scholarships/courses. I have been writing since I was 19 (20 years ago this year, gosh!) and although I had the ideas, I needed the guidance and the motivation to keep going. There is nothing like a deadline to focus your creativity!

Finally, what’s next for you – what are you working on now?
My next novel is about two women who live on an island in the North Sea. It’s quite a gothic, dark story, with lots of secrets and strange goings on. I can’t say too much at the moment, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing it.

We currently have a scholarship opportunity for talented writers of limited financial means – The HW Fisher Scholarship – the winner will receive a fully-funded place on our 3-month London-based novel-writing course taught by Charlotte Mendelson.

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