IT’S been a long time coming, but author Celia Bryce is delighted to finally see her debut novel hit the shelves.
The Jarrow-born writer started penning Anthem For Jackson Dawes as a short story 11 years ago.
When it was rejected by a well-known publisher, she didn’t lose heart, and instead added to it, until it became a story worthy of being fought over by two major publishing houses.
Bloomsbury eventually won her signature in a two-book deal.
Set in a children’s cancer ward, it tells the story of Megan Bright, who has just turned 14 and been told she has a brain tumour.
Bryce, a former nurse, said: “She meets another teenager who’s full of himself, totally obnoxious, but he’s the only company she’s got.
“Her friends are a bit scared by the whole thing and don’t come to see her. Her only friend becomes this teenager, Jackson Dawes.”
Bryce, who is married to South Shields GP Colin Bradshaw, did a lot of research about cancer.
She sent a manuscript to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Christie’s in Manchester.
“I had not written a novel before and I had not written for this age, so I needed to know how much to tell,” she said. She also won a grant from New Writing North so she could send her manuscript to a literary consultancy, who found her an agent.
Bryce, who runs Marsden Writers at Cleadon Methodist Church, has been writing poems since she was at school.
She trained and qualified as a nurse, but continued to write in her spare time, and joined a group in Newcastle, where she was encouraged to give prose a try.
Her short stories were broadcast on Radio 4, and one, The Skate Grinder, won the Imison Award in 2003.
She is working on her second novel, set in Belgium in the Second World War.
Bryce, who lives in Tynemouth and has two grown-up daughters and a grandchild, said: “I don’t know why I became a nurse, as I am better at the art side of things. You just have to be able to have a career.
“I think it is a lucky and very talented person who can take up a career in writing at 18.
“I think being able to draw on life experience helps you.
“I tend to start with a character and put them in a place and climb into their heads.
“Invariably I write through the eyes of younger people.
“I think I have never really grown up!”
Bryce gave up nursing in 1999 and enrolled on a teaching course and did an MA in creative writing.
She has worked with adults with learning difficulties, offenders and people with Alzheimer’s, using writing and her other passion – music – as therapy.