Author of ‘Being Forgotten’ Katharine Ann Angel has had many recent successes following the publication of her book in just February of this year. Having had years of experience fostering and teaching children, I caught up for a chat with her to find out what it is about her and her book that scored a great review in the Times Ed last month…
So Katharine, first and foremost- congratulations! You’ve had a great month in terms of getting your book out there- I’m sure many of our readers and authors would like to know what has happened since…
After Being Forgotten was published by 2QT in February, I sent out some publicity postcards to various organisations around the country. I also sent one email to the resources editor (Jo Knowsley) at TES asking her to consider reviewing my ‘unusual resource.’ Jo replied, “Very interested.” I sent her a copy that day and two days later she phoned me saying she loved the book and spent the morning reading it at her desk. She later described it in an email as “a lovely thing.”
Can you tell us a bit more about your book in a few words? What inspired you to write it?
The book is primarily eight short stories inspired by my real life experiences of teaching teens, all of whom are permanently excluded from school. Two of the stories are based on teens we fostered. I wanted to give people an insight into their hidden lives and behaviours, but I didn’t want to sensationalise them. Each teen highlights a different problem – for example, ‘Diamondman’ who is a boy called Blake waiting to be tried in court. Then I wrote about Hetty – a rebellious girl who thinks her parents don’t love her, and also Pia, whose life is disasterous but who longs to fit in at mainstream school. In my work I have encountered extreme situations such as dangerous weapons, sexual abuse and murder, but I didn’t focus on those things in Being Forgotten because it is more important that the reader learns that children, teenagers, experience abandonment, isolation, fear, illiteracy and so on, as the norm. They simply accept it.
How would you describe your style of writing?
I aim for an accessible, often chatty style. Being Forgotten was a challenge, because it is aimed at an adult readership, but is from the perspective of young people, so I didn’t want to use overly sophisticated vocabulary. Jo Knowsley (TES) wrote, “The writing is sometimes humorous, often poignant and always non-judgemental.” I love jokes and seeing the funny side of life, so I’m glad Jo picked up the humour in what could be a very miserable subject.
It didn’t all end there though-
Jo’s colleague, Kerra Maddern was at this time, composing a long, political article on SEN. Kerra asked my permission to quote some of Being Forgotten. However I told her the true version of a story, (only changing names and minor details). In another place, she quoted me. The next day my sister phoned from Somerset to tell me that my name was on the front page of the Telegraph and Daily Mail. These papers had lifted my quote from TES and used it for political debate about poor parenting being a cause of some behavioural problems.
I am not into the blame game. Blaming parents, teachers, social workers or anyone else for the ills of society doesn’t profit anyone. ‘Being Forgotten’ is not about solutions, but about raising awareness of the plight of many youngsters.
What kind of response have you had back from readers of ‘Being forgotten’?
I have had feedback from people who work for social services, teachers, college workers and even a nursery nurse who say that a copy of ‘Being Forgotten’ should be in every staff room. A college worker said, “I used to think very negatively about some of our students. Since reading Being Forgotten, I am more aware that some of them have challenging lives and I am glad they turn up to college. I feel less judgemental.” A social worker who read the book twice said, “On second reading I felt that everyone who works with young people should have a copy.”
What advice would you give to authors out there that are trying to get their book ‘noticed?’
Make advertising material and use it. I made double-sized postcards with the cover of Being Forgotten as the picture, and some reviews on the back. You can ask shops to do book signings although I personally didn’t like doing this. Send short, polite emails to your target audience. Some people are into Twitter and Facebook – anything that allows you to speak about your book. I panicked when the newspaper articles came out and updated my website!
I’m sure this isn’t the last we will hear from you- is there anything you plan on writing next?
I am working on a novel for adults, a comic/mystery story, which highlights the issue of modern day loneliness. I have finished a children’s novel but not sent it anywhere yet. Also two series of stories for teens who struggle with reading – again completed but not sent to a publisher yet. One series for boys is called ‘Gripper. Dog of Vic’. The series for girls is called ‘Dizzy Bezzy’. My son-in-law, Mark Shotter, is a superb cartoonist and is working on illustrations for these. It is all very exciting!
The eBook of ‘Being Forgotten’ will be available for download very soon, but in the meantime Katharine’s book can be purchased here
Cover also available in green!
Please visit Katharine’s website Katharineangelyolasite.com for more information about the book, and also read a free short story!
You can read the Times Educational Supplement review here http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6210945
Interview by Kate Cousins