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The Sea House

For our 19th Firefly Christmas Book Advent, Lucy Owen, BBC Wales presenter and newsreader and author of Boo-a-Bog in the Park (Pont Books), brings you some very exciting news … her next book for ages 5-8, The Sea House, will be published by Firefly Press in September 2018. Read below about where the idea behind the book came from and how it came to be published.


Sometimes it’s hard to know where ideas come from. Sometimes it’s hard to think why they’ve popped into your head. But you often remember the moment they happen. 
I was sitting at a bus stop.
I was on holiday sitting there, at that bus stop, thinking of all these extraordinary fish I’d seen while snorkeling. I must have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the experience, because it happened right there and then. The idea for The Sea House came to me, and it kept washing over me for months to come.
I’ve always loved writing. It’s the day job. Writing news headlines, writing scripts for television. Tight, concise use of words. Factually correct. Short sentences. 
Writing for children is rather different. Even before having my son, I read children’s books as an adult and once Gabriel was born, I had an excuse to really get stuck in. The times we’ve spent reading together will always be some of my most treasured memories.  
I started writing little rhyming stories myself to read to him. When he seemed to enjoy them, gradually I started to wonder whether any other children might like what I’d written too. You never know, could be worth a shot? Anyway, it would be fun trying. 
Where to start though? After a few internet searches I came across a wonderful scheme run by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. It’s called Meet the Editor and gives aspiring female writers the chance to get advice and have their work reviewed. When I saw I could get the chance to have an hour with Janet Thomas from children’s publisher Firefly, I jumped at it.
I was so nervous the day of that meeting. It’s quite hard offering up something you’ve written for a critique. There was no need to worry though. Janet was very gentle, talking through my different ideas, identifying what worked, what didn’t work and why. In particular, she liked one story I’d written. My picture book, Boo-a-Bog in the Park, went on to be published by Gomer as a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital for Wales. 
Just before our meeting ended though, I casually mentioned an idea I’d had for a book for slightly older children. This was Firefly territory. Roughly, this was my pitch:
‘It’s about a girl called Coral. Her parents have died and one night, Coral cries so much she fills her whole house up with her tears. Those tears create a magical, sea world, right in her own home. There is a cast of colourful creatures who become Coral’s best friends, determined to help her find happiness again, by helping her have a lot of underwater fun. 
But there is a darkness in the house too. Lurking in the heart of her home, are those who want to drag her down into the depths. Will Coral be able to find the strength to confront her enemy and save herself and her friends? Or will she be lost forever?
The conflict in the house comes to represent her internal struggle, between becoming consumed with grief or finding a way through. For Coral it’s about dealing with bereavement, but the story is about dealing with any dark time with strength, courage and love.’
Of course it didn’t come out like that when I was talking to Janet. I was gabbling and rambling, jumbled words tumbling out. But miraculously, she seemed to think there may be something in it. I was told to go off, write a few chapters and Janet would have a look at them. 
Many, many months on, here we are. It is actually going to be published. This really is a dream come true, especially since the theme of the story couldn’t be more personal for me.
I remember being about halfway through writing the book one morning and suddenly stopping. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t struck me before. It was glaringly obvious where this story was coming from. I had lost my own dad when I was in my teens. He drowned while he was on holiday, hitting his head diving into the sea. Still hard to think about, even after all these years. 
Drying my tears, I started typing once again and decided to embrace it. I knew exactly now why I wanted to write this story.
So I hope you’ll want to come with me on Coral’s journey. Meet Fabulous, the most sparkly fish in the ocean, Cumberbatch, an ancient dude of a turtle, Bubba the puffa and many more - before you face Stealth the stingray and his deadly Urchin Army. 
This story may be an indoor, underwater, riotous sea spectacular, but it is a story with a fight for love and happiness at its heart. 
I believe many of us can relate to that.