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Have you spotted Candy? Written by Lavie Tidhar, and illustrated by Mark Beech, it is set in a city where candy is a crime and biscuits have been banned,
Nelle Faulkner is a 12-year-old private detective on the lookout for her next client. When the
notorious candy gangster, Eddy De Menthe, asks for her help, Nelle is on the case and becomes swept into a secret world of sweet smugglers and chocolate crooks.
Absolutely delighted that Lavie Tidhar has popped in to My Book Corner to tells us all about his experience of writing for children…
Writing My First Children’s Book
To be honest, I can’t imagine what possessed me. I’d just finished a very difficult adult book that was about to come out, and in a way I needed to get as far away from it as possible. For years I’d had an image in my head of a child standing by the sewage pipes looking up at the hill, where the chocolate factory stood silent and abandoned, its gates closed, and wondering how to get in. And I’d been talking to a friend about this idea of a girl searching for a missing teddy bear…
Suddenly the two images collided. I’d been working on a novel I found very difficult at the time (this one’s only coming out next year, at last, and it’s still not quite finished!) and I decided to take a break and write Candy. No one had to know if I failed miserably…
But the truth was, I had a blast! As soon as I started, all the stress of the other books just lifted. I wanted to have fun – but that didn’t mean I approached the book any differently. I was writing it for myself, after all. So I packed in references and jokes, throwaway lines galore (you’ll find shoutouts to any number of classic gangster movies in there, and a lot of hardboiled dialogue I thought was very funny). I’d planned for a short book – but halfway through, I realised how much I enjoyed writing about these characters and their world, and the truth was,
I didn’t want it to end. So I kept going!
I’m not sure I do remember much from the actual period of writing. I had to look it up recently, and it was longer than I remember, and of course real life was always in the background as I worked. The other, adult book I was working on kept being a nightmare, and Candy was my escape. I was lost in the world of candy Prohibition, of my young detective, Nelle Faulkner, trying to do the right thing no matter the cost. A sun-drenched world where the summer seemed to last forever, where every day was an adventure, and where the simple search for a missing teddy bear led to untold mysteries – and finally, inevitably, to that shuttered chocolate factory high up on the hill.
I’d like to tell you that once a book is written, it is done. If only! As it turned out, the whole process of publishing Candy proved to be a rollercoaster all on its own. And once the book was picked up by Scholastic in the UK (weirdly, improbably, it sold half-way across Europe before ever finding a UK publisher! But that’s a story for another time), it was time to edit.
And edit we did! My editor at Scholastic, Sophie, was amazing, and very patient, and had a very clear idea of what she wanted to see. So I dove back into Candy – and again – and again! – and each time the story formed anew, polished until it was as smooth as a pebble stone. Or as smooth as smooth peanut butter, take your pick.
Writing is fun – editing is work.
But I discovered that as many times as I read through and re-worked Candy, I still loved reading through it. I still laughed at the lines, I still cared for the characters. Usually, by the time I’m done with a book, the last thing I ever want to do is read it again – but I don’t feel that way with Candy.