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Deborah Andrews: Walking the Lights

Shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize 2016

‘Vivid and Convincing’ Guardian

Deborah Andrews introduces Walking the Lights

I’d been scripting plays and writing short stories and poems for quite some time, but I’d always wanted to write a novel – it just seemed a bit of a daunting task. I took some evening classes and went on to study part-time for an MLitt in Creative Writing. One of my supervisors suggested, as a starting point for a novel, taking a subject I was interested in exploring and setting it in a world with which I was familiar. I was curious about the difference between acting and being – in all situations, not just in relation to performance – and I was keen to write about some of the jobs I’d done when I was starting out, including murder mystery weekends and role-play scenarios. The character of Maddie came fairly easily. I think, from my experience working in the theatre –voice, character, dialogue and scene dynamics – come quite naturally to me, although I adapted a range of exercises to help develop and test these aspects too – I’m a great believer in craft.

Walking the Lights became a rites-of-passage novel set in Scotland in the mid-nineties. The era felt important to me, especially the sense of optimism that surrounded new Labour and the lead-up to devolution and how that reflected Maddie’s emergence. There are a few issues explored in the novel, including mental health and the legacy of the past. For a short while, Maddie’s family background was very dark, but I didn’t want to focus so much on specific abuse, I wanted to look at the power of words and how, in our communication, we can encourage or diminish others. Balanced with these heavier elements is a cast of colourful characters and plenty of hijinks, sparkle and greasepaint – especially when Maddie and her friends begin work on a production of The Tempest, a play that weaves through the novel in terms of story, themes and motifs. Walking the Lights has been described as ‘a love letter to Scotland’, ‘an ode to friendship’ and as ‘a feminist Withnail and I’. I’m passionate about stories for wisdom and wellbeing, and in the capacity for change, and, although these threads are deeply woven through the story, I hope the novel glints with them too.

Deborah Andrews is an award-winning theatre practitioner turned novelist. Born in Windsor, she moved to Glasgow in 1990 to study for a BA in Drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She went on to work as a performer, workshop leader, director and writer. In 1999, her theatrical adaptation of Dream State: The New Scottish Poets, won a Scotsman Fringe First Award and in 2002 she co-founded Solar Bear theatre company. She established the first year-round Deaf Youth Theatre in the UK and scripted six main-stage and several community productions, winning several awards. Her debut novel, Walking the Lights (‘a feminist Withnail and I’), is shortlisted for this year’s Not the Booker Prize. Since 2014, Deborah’s lived in Lancaster, where she teaches creative writing.

Events

Armley Library, 2 Stocks Hill, Leeds, LS12 1UQ
Monday 27 April, 2pm

Hull Central Library, Albion Street, Hull, HU1 3TF
Wednesday 17 May, 6.30pm

Durham Clayport Library, 8 Millennium Place, Durham City, DH1 1WA
Tuesday 30 May, 3pm

Hebden Bridge Library, Cheetham Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EP
Thursday 22 June, 7pm

Mirfield Library, Mirfield, WF14 8XS
Sunday 16 July, 1pm

Advance booking is advisable and all events may be subject to change. See our individual event listings for further information.

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