Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Misha Herwin and a New YA Book

What would happen if the world ran out of water? Would our societies survive? Would our technology? The more I thought about this, the more complex the situation became. Without water, humans and animals would get sick, cities crumble, and the way of life we know would disappear.

At first I set the book in the real world. I started doing research about how people would survive in a dystopian land, which technologies would last, and which would not, but I soon got bogged down in the details. What I needed was an alternative world and a history which is based on ours, but is nevertheless a fiction.

This was my starting point, but the book took off when I found my main character. As is usual for me, she came in one vivid image -- a girl standing on a rock looking down on a line of wagons carrying water to a distant town. So precious is their cargo that the wagons are guarded day and night. Mouse wants to be a guard. She wants to leave the narrow confines of The Town and go out into the world in search of the knowledge and learning she has been denied, because in her society women are either mothers or fighters, and she knows that for her there is more than this.

I don’t want to label Mouse as feisty and fiery. She is both, but above all she is herself, a girl who has problems understanding other people and who believes that the most important thing in life is to survive. A girl who has no time for love or, most importantly in a YA novel, sex.

Clear Gold is the first of three books. To write a trilogy, which explores love and romance, but does not involve sex,  was something I very much wanted to do. I am not against sex in YA novels, or indeed any other books. My novels for adults do include sex scenes and I enjoy writing them, but I do believe that there is a place in books for the 13+ readership for less graphic, more romantic scenarios.

The reason for this comes from my experience as an ex-teacher, who used to have to teach sex-education to mixed classes. Searching for suitable material for my tutor group of fifteen-year-olds, I was only too aware of their very different stages of development. Some were almost adults, others still kids. They all needed to know the facts but not all of them were ready for, or indeed wanted to read about, steamy sexual passion.

So Mouse, whose every action contradicts the name she was given by her foster sister, was born. Her life is not ruled by the need to find the one true love of her life. She fights, she swears. She is independent, awkward, and sometimes downright difficult. And I love her.

Misha Herwin lives in Staffordshire, near the countryside that inspired the terrain of Clear Gold. She writes books for children, young adults, and adults, and has a number of short stories in various anthologies, mostly dealing with the darker, supernatural side of life.  Her latest book for adults is House of Shadows, a time slip novel. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and ever-patient husband. Baking bread is relaxing and marzipan muffins are a specialty.

Clear Gold by Misha Herwin for illusio & baqer. Art by Yanmo Zhang. To be published in the next few weeks by Zharmae Publishing Press.


  1. This sounds like the kind of book I would love to read - even though I am a grandmother! I will investigate further, as I also see your latest adult book sounds interesting.
    I love character driven stories, but they must also have a great setting, background and something of great importance to work for - which is why I love a lot of YA novels.

  2. When an author loves her characters, it invariably shines through the narrative and makes the reader love them too.

  3. I'm all about character development too.

  4. The characters I love definitely have depth and spunk and fight. But interestingly, the ones I hate have, on occasion, been the most fun to write about. (Maybe I vent pent-up anger, pain, etc., through them -- hmm.)

  5. I can totally relate, Misha. In my Middle Grade fantasy, my main character goes from thinking she has to join in the celebrity worshop---actually wishing for a chance to meet her idol---and then realising she'd rather just have her own adventure, thanks all the same.

  6. I can see that I shall have to read (and likely share) this book, not only for the premise, but for the very promising character development. Thank you for visiting us today!

  7. And you should definitely love her, Misha, because she sounds INCREDIBLE. She sounds REAL, and that always makes for a character readers want to learn more about and to follow throughout the character's journey!

  8. I'm so appreciative when stories about love, for any age group, don't get obsessively wrapped up in sex. I like sex as much as the next person, but there are so many more dimensions to relationships that are ripe for exploring.

    Water scarcity as a theme?! You are an author after my heart. To me, this is an even scarier eventuality than global warming. Earth is a closed system, as you surely know, and all the water that will ever be here is already here. It is our most precious resource. Thank you for writing about it, my favorite form of activism.

  9. How could you not love a character like this? Sorry to be so late to the party.

  10. Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate them and will let everyone know as soon as Clear Gold is out in all its various forms.

  11. What has been interesting in the whole process of writing is that much as I love Mouse and could see and hear her clearly from the start, the world she inhabited was much harder to create. Thanks to my wonderful writing group, Renegade Writers, I had to scrap the first 30,000 words before I got it right.

    1. I remember cutting 25,000 words out of my first book. It was painful, but the end result was definitely worth enduring those reluctant moments when I almost didn't do it.

    2. I rewrote 60% of Maddie, also mainly for world-building, structural, and plot purposes rather than anything to do with character - Maddie had a strong voice and personality from the start, too, and it was surprisingly easy to reflow the plot around her.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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