First Time

This is where it all began for me. First Time is my first novel, published by Phoenix House in 1996, and written when I was 18. It tells the story of Emma and Cassandra, two fourteen year old schoolgirls from very different backgrounds, both alienated by stifling social pressures. While I didnít intentionally set out to write gritty realism, I wanted to write something that captured the essence of the city I had grown up in, and I found a way of mirroring its tensions through the troubled friendship of the two protagonists.

And so I wrote my book, sent it off, and to my amazement found a publisher immediately. It was a fantastic opportunity, though I hadnít anticipated finding myself at the heart of a media storm over the rights and wrongs of publishing very young authors. . . . Letís just say it was a rocky ride, with plenty of highs and lows. Nowadays, no one bats an eyelid when a young author arrives on the scene with his or her teenage opus fresh off the printing press. How times have changed. However, hereís what some of the positive reviewers said:

ĎA gripping portrayal of a 15-year-old girl stumbling, unprepared, into an adult world. . . extremely well-written. . . it has a deeply genuine feel to it.í Carolyn Hart, Financial Times

ĎHarte has got it absolutely right. Itís raw, slightly grubby, and spectacularly well observed.í Christie Hickman, Midweek

ĎA well-observed and beautifully written debut.í Caitlin Moran, Mail on Sunday

ĎA refreshing and moving novel.í Sarah Francis, Times Literary Supplement

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