The Next Big Thing


December 5, 2012 by Lydia Syson

Yes, yes, I know writers are meant to be a lonely lot, isolated in far-flung garrets of angst-ridden creativity. Actually, the children’s writing community is as welcoming and inclusive a place as you could ever hope to find yourself.  Hence The Next Big Thing – a kind of chain blog in which no curses are threatened if you don’t pass it on, but writer after writer has the chance to share news on works-in-progress, books about to be published – whatever is currently looming in their lives. So my first ever meme comes to you with huge thanks to Fleur Hitchcock – my first ever Hot Key author twitter-friend.  (I hope you’ve already have read her brilliant debut Shrunk: now find out what’s coming next.)  


What is the working title of your next book?

WINGED. I like its multiple meanings, literal and figurative, and the way the word contains its opposite, as winged can mean both ‘in flight’ and ‘brought down’ or ‘wounded’.  But I’m a great one for chopping and changing titles, and I haven’t even begun the discussion with my publisher yet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

One of my children was obsessed with flying for years, to the extent that instead of a party, he had a flying lesson for his 10th birthday, and I sat in the back of his Cessna (172?).  We took off from Lydd, and he flew me over Romney Marsh in Kent where WINGED is mostly set.   We also spent a great deal of time in aviation museums, from Duxford to the tiny one on Romney Marsh at Brenzett.  Three things began to fascinate me:

1. The planes that crashed over the Marsh and simply disappeared.

2. The Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, many of whom had already witnessed the invasion of Poland and France.

3. The idea of living on the Marsh, within earshot of France, at a time when invasion was expected at any moment.  The first real line of defense is behind you, and the Battle of Britain is raging overhead.

What genre does your book fall under?

The thing I like most about writing ‘YA’ fiction is that it’s such a flexible, genre-bending category, so I hesitate to answer.  A World Between Us was in an appropriately 1930s genre – political romance.  If you were to put me up against a wall, I’d say this is historical romance for teens with a WW2 setting.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmmm.  I’ll consult my children on that in due course.  The main actors need to be fairly young – my heroine, Peggy, is sixteen, her brother Ernest is eleven and Henryk is only twenty – so I’m thinking unknowns might be best. Casting is definitely not something I ever think about while I’m writing.  (Actually, that’s not quite true.  It did occur to me when I was re-drafting A World Between Us that if Ben Wishart were younger and taller he’d make a great Nat.)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Invasion Summer: a Polish pilot bails out over the Island of Last Hope and loses hope, before finding love.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m delighted to say that I’m represented by Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan and the book will be published by Hot Key.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About a year, on and off, though the original idea has been gestating for several more.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

If you forget the ‘within your genre’ bit of that question, I’d say it’s a little bit Summer of My German Soldier (Bette Greene), a little bit Spies (Michael Frayn), and perhaps a tiny bit Tamar (Mal Peet).  But actually completely different from all those books, of course.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See question 2.  As the idea developed, I’ve found inspiration mooching about on Romney Marsh in all weather, listening to interviews in the Imperial War Museum, talking to a family of sisters in Kent about their memories of 1940, and a brilliant local historian about his research, reading JB Priestley’s famous Postscript broadcasts, a wonderful book about WW2 rumours called Listening to Britain, Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands….the list is long.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Characters: A quirky boy, a headstrong heroine, and a gorgeously flawed but charming hero.

Mood and plot: Secrets and passion, spies and suspicion, loyalty and betrayal, a future foreshadowed…and a staging post in an epic journey.


And now it’s ‘pass it on’ time.  I’m tagging a children’s writer for every age group.  Just follow these links to find out all about their Next Big Things next Wednesday…

Saviour Pirotta, storyteller extraordinaire, who jumps through time and across continents to bring you gods and heroes, fairytales and legends…

and two more fellow Hot Key authors…

the multi-talented Julie Mayhew – novelist, playwright, short-storyist, ice-skater!

and lovely Rebecca Lisle, about whom, for the moment, I will simply say ‘Wot larx!’ (no spoilers here…)

Don’t forget to check them out next week. But waiting is hard, so meanwhile, do have a look at Natasha Ngan‘s NBT on her beautiful new blog.


  1. M says:

    Sounds good; very much looking forward to it. This next big thing meme also looks like a good idea.

  2. Bozena says:

    How exciting! I can’t wait to read it.

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“A mesmerising portrait of a family unravelling” THE TIMES (Best historical fiction in 2018)

“Powerful, intense and beautiful” HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW

“This tense, evocative, richly-imagined novel conjures the voices of a strange time and place, and makes them universal” EMMA DARWIN

“Syson brings history alive” THE OBSERVER

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