Ty and his mum think they are safe at last after the witness protection programme moves them and Ty becomes Jake instead of Joe. But a horrific attack and the death of a close friend prove otherwise. Ty's family decide that they have had enough of incompetent police protection and his aunt takes him to hide with the grandparents he's never met, his long absent father's family. There he slowly learns the truth about his own family and meets his feckless father.
But Ty can't forget Claire, the girl he met while he was Joe, and eventually he escapes to meet her while she is on a class trip. But Claire has changed and Ty's identity becomes more and more exposed. This brilliant exploration of teen identity is shot through with drama and suspense, keeping readers on the edge of their seat from start to finish.
Hello Keren, thank you for chatting with us! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Keren: I've been a journalist for what seems like forever - I started out as a messenger girl when I was 18 and have worked for local and national papers as a reporter, a feature writer and an editor. In 2008 I decided to try and write a book for children. I signed up for a course of evening classes at City University in London and started writing the book which became When I Was Joe, helped and supported by the class tutor and the other students. I wrote the bulk of the book during the course, and then once I'd finished my first draft, began to query agents. I had some rejections, carried on working on the book, and a few months later had offers from three agents. Then the book was sent out to publishers, and I ended up with a two-book deal from Frances Lincoln Children's Books. It may sound quick and easy, but you have to remember that I had more than 25 years of experience as a journalist...and there were quite a few rejections before I got the deal!
Please tell us about your novel, Almost True, and what we can expect from your characters.
Keren: When I Was Joe tells the story of Ty who sees a boy stabbed to death and has to go into witness protection - which is not very well established in the UK. It's about how you cope with taking on a false identity, and whether you can ever really escape who you are. Almost True, the sequel, picks up Ty's story as his family decide that police protection isn't keeping him safe enough, so he goes into hiding with some strangers who seem to know a lot about him. In Almost True, Ty finds out a lot of secrets about his past.
Sounds really great! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Keren: I'm writing a third book about Ty, provisionally called "Another Life." And I have another book coming out in August 2011 in the UK and in Spring 2012 in the US called Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery. It's about a 16 year old girl who wins a £8million jackpot and all the turmoil that causes, particularly as she fancies a boy who may be a vampire.
Thank you again, Keren! Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Keren: My writing tip would be that 'write what you know' need not mean veiled autobiography. Tell the story you want to tell, and then draw on your own experience to make the characters real.
Keren David began her career in journalism as a teenager, starting out as messenger girl and then becoming a junior reporter at the Jewish Chronicle. She worked as a reporter for the Sunday Times and the Daily Express in Scotland and then as a news editor at the Independent, later becoming a commissioning editor on the Comment pages. She lived and worked in Amsterdam for eight years, returning to London in 2007. Since then Keren has written two books for teenagers, the contemporary thrillers When I Was Joe and Almost True both published in 2010. Drawing on her background in news, they tell the story of a boy taken into police protection after witnessing a murder. When I was Joe has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal and last week won the North East Teenage Book Award 2010. Keren's next book, Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery will be published in August 2011 (Spring 2012 in the US). Keren lives in north London with her husband, two children and two very greedy guinea pigs.