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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
BBC winner realises writing dream
By Keily Oakes
BBC News entertainment reporter

Louise Arnold
Louise Arnold has already written the second in the series
When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in 2003, the BBC News website launched a contest to find the next JK Rowling.

Budding authors were invited to submit the first paragraph of a children's book, with a final selection put to the public vote.

Louise Arnold, from Canterbury, Kent, emerged as the winner with her introduction to the story of a not very frightening ghost.

She was then invited to have a first chapter published, although there was no promise she would end up with the riches of millionaire Rowling.

But her first chapter was noticed by the right people and she was contacted by an agent.

She was invited for meetings to discuss the book - although at the time there was no book, just the idea for one.

Two years on the book, entitled The Invisible Friend, is in the shops and Arnold is beginning the job of publicising it.

'Very daunting'

"I was contacted by an agent and had to go for meetings which was very daunting because the industry was all new to me and I had little clue how it all worked," said Arnold.

"But I got lucky with the people I met and I realise how lucky I am to have this opportunity."

A deal and an advance meant Arnold no longer had to look for a job to support her, so she could concentrate on writing her first book.

"I was given a deadline of a year to write the book, which I delivered on time. I'm a bit of daydreamer so I needed that deadline to get me down to working."

Reverend Graham Taylor

"I was given an advance so I didn't have to get a job, which was great because I was straight out of university. Luckily I also had a supportive boyfriend."

"When I submitted the book they asked for very few changes, just a little fine tuning of the characters. For the American version they had to change a few things because the audience would not have got some of the references," she said.

The book goes under a different name in the US - Golden and Grey - An Unremarkable Boy, and a Rather Unremarkable Ghost.

The book is aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, but Arnold said she didn't actively write for a certain age group.

The Invisible Friend

Although Arnold says she does not structure her day like many authors who dedicate certain hours to writing, she has already submitted the second book in the Grey Arthur series.

'Two-edged sword'

Although the BBC contest was a search for "the next JK Rowling", Arnold says she would never encourage herself to be labelled as such.

"It is a two-edged sword. It is great to get the attention but it is a very big shadow to be in," she said.

"I haven't actually read any of the Harry Potter books," she confesses. "But I have seen the films and I thought they were brilliant."

Arnold says she has no real ambitions for herself other than carry on being a writer and having her books read.

But she says it was strange when she was first asked what she did for a living.

"When I said I was an author and described the book I was working on, people would give me a funny look as if to say 'of course you are'.

"It is great now to be able to have the book to show people. I'm loving it."

Arnold was diagnosed dyslexic when she was at university. She said she managed to hide her struggle with words during school because she could write her own opinions.

But she fell behind quickly in university because the nature of the work changed.

"I went to see an educational psychologist and suddenly it all made sense, it wasn't just me being scatty," she said.

"I wouldn't say I was the epitome of a dyslexic or an inspiration to others but if I can help people understand it more then I am happy to talk about it.

"I hope I can show people that it doesn't have to hold you back."

The Invisible Friend is published by Hodder Children's Books.

The Next JK: The short story
07 Jul 03 |  Entertainment
Louise is 'Next JK' winner
25 Jun 03 |  Entertainment


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