Introducing Christopher Joyce, winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017

It is my great pleasure to introduce Christopher Joyce, whose short story Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum won the very first Cornish Writing Challenge! You can read his story on Frost Magazine here.

Christopher Joyce, from Chichester in West Sussex, has been a teacher, waiter, once made Venetian blinds, and has worked in a steel works. He is best known for his series of children’s books, ‘The Creatures of Chichester’, where the city’s animals solve the problems created by the Twolegs living there. You can find out more on his website.

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To celebrate his win, Chris has given an interview to us here at The Bandwagon. Read on to find out more about the winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017!

What inspired you to start writing?

Moving to Chichester, which has such an iconic Cross at the centre of the city. It seemed the obvious place for secret liaisons to take place. As I had been a teacher of 8 to 12 year olds, it seemed sensible to write for that age group. Hence ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ were born.

As an independent author, what do you wish you’d known about the process before publishing your own books?

The need to spend so much time on marketing your book. The great thing is you have complete control and can run price promotions, change the covers, run targeted advertising through Facebook or Amazon, and tweet away to your heart’s content. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is a lot of help out there for people starting out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read before you write. Once I had decided to write for children, I spent a lot of time reading kids’ books. Not the ones I remember from years ago, but current stories. The same applies to any genre. I made notes about the fonts used, word count and vocabulary used. I also decided to make my printed books dyslexic friendly by using a large sans-serif font and left justifying the text.

Tell us more about Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum. Where did the inspiration come from?

After viewing the picture prompts, I slept on it and woke up with this bizarre sentence in my head. I googled if there were gypsum mines in Cornwall and was amazed to see there were, so I decided to go with the flow. Once I looked again at the picture of the books in the phone box I had the idea for how the story would end. So I wrote it backwards, in effect.

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Picture prompt

What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in South Wales, so Cornwall was always a favourite holiday destination. My brother met his wife and got married in Newquay. They had an anniversary party there recently where you had to come representing a decade. My partner and I chose to go as punks, so I have fond memories of trying on dog collars to the astonishment of the pet shop owners of Newquay.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve just finished editing the last book in ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ series. I plan to publish a children’s recipe book at Christmas. It’s called ‘The Alien Cookbook’ which features Nanaberry Rockets and Slime Dogs. I’ve also been asked to present some ideas to an editor of a leading publisher at the end of the year for another series of books for children. Nothing promised, but it could be very exciting.

What are you currently reading?

Kid’s books, mostly aimed at 10 to 13. I would love to write something that could reach boys in particular who tend to switch off at that age. I’ve also got Stephen King’s The Dead Zone as an audiobook ready for my holidays. I’m a big fan of audiobooks. Apparently it’s the biggest growing sector, with 29% growth last year. I’ve converted all my books to audio too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m also a garden designer so I enjoy that. Chichester has a great theatre and we’re close to Goodwood too. This year our local authors’ group CHINDI ran a series of events as part of the Festival of Chichester. We had a Crime Writers Panel, workshops on creative writing and self-publishing, a ghost tour with stories written by local authors, and a sold out Words and Wine quiz.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

I went to teacher training college in Exmouth, so cream first for me.

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Website | Facebook | @creaturesofchi | Amazon

I think we can let Christopher off that last comment, even though jam first is most certainly the right way. Congratulations to Christopher and to all of our Cornish Writing Challenge entrants! Keep your eyes peeled for further interviews with the runners-up, and for the return of the Cornish Writing Challenge next year!

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