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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Belfast mum in literary limelight
From kitchen table to top table in a chain of national bookshops - writer Sarah Wray couldn't have penned a happier ending.

The Belfast woman who dreamed of making her name as a children's novelist was breaking open the champage on Monday, at her own book launch party.

Sarah Wray
Sarah Wray is excited about her book deal

Her novel, The Forbidden Room, was chosen from 3,500 entries across the United Kingdom in a competition organised by Waterstones and Faber & Faber to find the next big children's novelist.

Just as JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novels in an Edinburgh cafe, her baby daughter at her side, Sarah snatched the hours when her three children were at school, to write a book to capture the heart of even the most harsh commissioning editor.

"When my children came along and started school, rather than going back to work, I started spending my mornings writing and being very disciplined," she explained.

"I have written seven books. I sent them off to publishers and got rejections. I kept on trying and trying... and finally I entered this competition and won," she said.

Her book is for young people aged 12 and over.

"The main character, Jenny, was in a car accident and was left orphaned and disabled.

"She is fostered by a family who seem to be lovely at first - but she starts to have suspicions, she starts to overhear conversations and she finds a diary from a previous child they fostered."

The diary unlocks the shocking truth... and, in the spirit of all the best children's novels, this is a page turner with a dramatic twist at the end.

Sarah moved to Belfast from Merseyside in 1988 to study genetics and, since graduating, has worked in a medical research laboratory, as a science teacher, childminder and on a supermarket checkout.

The judging panel which selected Sarah's book included television presenters Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield, best-selling author GP Taylor, and Waterstone's bookseller and successful children's author, Anna Dale.

The Forbidden Room is available from Thursday 7 September.

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