Grimwood by Nadia Shireen

Grimwood is Nadia Shireen’s first foray into middle grade writing and it is a delightful tale. Read on for a fantastic guest post from Nadia about writing this book and her inspirations.

Even though I’ve been making picture books for around a decade now, I still think of myself as something of a beginner. But now that I’ve written my first ever middle grade book, Grimwood, I realise I can’t really get away with that excuse any more. In picture books, I’m used to keeping my sentences short, and telling as much of the story as possible in densely packed illustrations. With Grimwood, I was suddenly free to use more words. What a joy! I loved suddenly being able to stretch my sentences and add loads of silly jokes and asides for no reason at all.

Inspired by my heroes Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle, I strived for the illustrations to be quick, inky and kinetic. I’m very much learning on the job, so I suspect seasoned pen and ink illustrators will be horrified by my initial attempts. Maybe I will have cracked it by book 50. I do still wish I had maybe had more time to learn and develop this very specific craft, but then maybe learning under pressure is good, too. After all, my picture book career started quite abruptly too. Learning on the job means that unfortunately, all of my many mistakes have been published. However it also means I will never ever grow complacent about writing or drawing, as I’m always frantically trying to improve on whatever came before. I don’t want to get found out!

Grimwood generally moves along at quite a pace, but I also hope that I’ve created space for pondering, meaningless jokes, and general larking about. I think it’s important books are not just Efficient Plot Delivery Systems. That’s been one of the hardest things to get to grips with; how to balance characterisation, atmosphere, jokes, rich language and keep the story moving.

I feel so lucky that I’m able to move between these two fantastic genres. It’s like learning to drive two very different cars. I’m just going to grit my teeth, turn the radio up and try very hard not to crash!

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