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Northumberland author makes a splash with debut book deal


A former student at Newcastle University has hooked the deal of her dreams to get her first book published.

Mum of two Chloe Daykin, from Hexham, has written ‘Fish Boy’, which will be published by Faber Books next year, followed by her second, as yet un-titled, book which she is currently writing.

The deal was confirmed earlier this month at the Bologna Book Fair – regarded as one of the publishing world’s most important events for children’s authors and publishers. There was such interest in Fish Boy that a bidding war quickly broke out, with Faber eventually beating off the competition to secure worldwide English language rights.

“People call me Fish Boy.  My skin goes up and down like the waves.  My mind goes in and out like the sea.  They say I’ve always got my mouth open, that I ask too many questions.”

‘Fish Boy’ is the tale of Billy Shiel, a lonely boy who must come to terms with the trials that make his life a misery through trusting in the wisdom of David Attenborough and the power of the earth. Billy’s dad has to work extra hours to make ends meet, and his mum is unable to work due to a mysterious illness, while playground bullies seize on Billy’s ‘otherness’. Billy is obsessed with swimming in the sea, which is where he goes to submerge himself and his problems as the water washes them away.

But when new boy Patrick Green, with “fingers like steel, strength of a bear”, starts at school, and a mackerel swims up to Billy’s face, blows bubbles into his goggles and says “Kezdodik, Kezdodik, Kezdodik” his whole world changes.

Chloe (pictured) received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2014 to do a MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. As part of this, she took part in Ann Coburn’s ‘Writing for Children’ course, offered jointly by the School of English and the Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA). This is where the idea for Billy’s story came to her, although the seeds of it go further back. As Chloe explains: “It began with David Almond’s Practical Magic workshop organised by the NCLA, which blew my mind - he’s such a hero of mine, just to be there was terrifying and amazing.  Amongst loads of brilliant inspiration and advice, David told us to get a title page and a bulldog clip and as we were working to keep printing it out, to keep feeling it growing in our hands. So I left thinking, ‘I am going to do that’ - and I did!

“The story itself began in Ann Coburn’s wonderful course, which was brilliant and gave me so much to work with - this was where I discovered Billy’s love for David Attenborough and that his mum was ill, both of which were interesting and lovely surprises.

“I’ve always loved water, when I was little I’d bob about in it for hours just watching the patterns rippling about on the seabed. So it seemed like a good place to start - plus I’ve always wanted to live by the seaside, so this was a great way of doing it, just in my brain.

“Then I started writing and discovered Billy and he just had so much to say he never really stopped!

“Fish Boy is a book about struggle, survival, loneliness and the deep and mysterious. I wanted to get across a love of the sea, a quirky craziness,  and trying to show it’s ok to feel weird, to be an outsider or alone or frightened.  We all feel like that.  And it’s ok.”

Alongside her writing, Chloe works with children and families making pop up books to inspire them to invent stories of their own, and also runs a book-binding company. She says that despite her publishing success, she has no plans to stop either.

She adds: “I am totally thrilled to be signing to Faber, it’s an absolute dream come true. I followed my heart and this is where it led me, I’m so excited!”

Ann Coburn, Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University and a successful children’s author in her own right, said: ‘I’m so pleased that Chloe discovered how to tell the story of the remarkable ‘Fish Boy’ on the Creative Writing MA course here at Newcastle University.  Our aim is to enable talented writers to find their voice by developing both the art and the craft of their chosen form, be it prose, poetry or script.

“Chloe is a wonderful writer with a strong and individual voice.  It is hard to believe that ‘Fish Boy’ is her debut novel for children; the storytelling is assured and Billy is an endearing protagonist who will capture the affections of his readers from the first page.” 


published on: 30 April 2015