Wendy Storer and Kate Hanney are writers of exciting contemporary teen fiction with a social conscience.
They are also publishing trailblazers.
I interviewed them separately but they've made a special announcement which has led to this joint profile. It could have important implications for other authors in the future.
They have decided to join forces to publish their work as e-books under the umbrella of Applecore Books.
Kate told me: "Applecore Books is an independent writers' co-operative that Wendy and I have set up to publish our books. It's still very much in its infancy, but we are hoping it will grow and that other authors might join us in the future."
On their new website, www.applecorebooks.co.uk, Wendy and Kate say: "Created by the authors themselves, Applecore specialises in fiction for children and young adults that is based on real life. We don't do fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal or futuristic - instead, we believe there's enough emotion, action, excitement and adventure right here, right now, in the world we all live in."
The first three books to be published, all available as e-books, are Kate's - Watermelon, Someone Different and Safe.
Wendy's titles Bring Me Sunshine, Where Bluebirds Fly and How To Be Lucky will follow.
So let's meet these two talented writers and entrepreneurs.
Kate Hanney never dreamed of being a writer as a child.
It was never a burning ambition. She never wrote in her spare time. The only writing she did were the usual school exercises.
|Kate Hanney, an author with a social conscience|
Troubled by what she saw and heard, she finally picked up a pen and started writing.
She didn't know how you went about writing a book. She didn't know if she was breaking the rules because she didn't know what the rules were.
She had to find her way through the story with nothing more than her intuition to guide her. Then her first daughter was born and the story was put on hold.
But time passed and Kate finished her story.
She called the book Safe.
"It was never written with a publisher in mind. I was setting out to try to develop sympathy for a teenager," Kate told me, speaking from her home in Sheffield.
Safe is the story of a teenager who steals a car, crashes it into another vehicle in which a young girl is killed. It is the story of what led to that horrific event and the consequences.
"I have been teaching for 14 years now, in a very deprived area with low qualifications and poor GCSE results and I suppose that is where the idea started.
"Until you get to know these kids you don't understand a lot about them. And in Safe this kid has done something awful, but this story is what led him to do it. It's not trying to justify it, but it is an explanation.
"I see this a lot in my job, youngsters from very troubled backgrounds."
|Safe is hard-hitting|
"The kids I showed it to loved it. It's full of colloquial language. It engaged a lot of reluctant readers."
It never occurred to Kate to approach an agent or publisher. Instead, she self-published Safe through the YouWriteOn scheme, available as paperback and e-book with a striking front cover by her brother.
"It would never have been picked up by a conventional publisher. I would have been encouraged to write a more optimistic ending," she said. Being true to the young people she writes about is crucial to Kate. She ponders the matter of how to end your novel in a brilliant blog post at Wendy Storer's wonderful website, Don't Tell Me The Moon's Shining.
Because Kate didn't know the 'rules', she began promoting the book herself. She persuaded 12 Waterstones stores to stock it, and got the book into Sheffield's libraries.
Six or seven of the city's schools ordered class sets of the book, which was thrilling for Kate, to think her book was being studied by the young people she was writing about.
She even got an email from a teacher in Canada inquiring about teaching resources related to the book.
Spurred on by this success, Kate began writing more. She sent her next book, Watermelon to Cornerstones, the literary consultancy, through whom she met her agent.
More and more revisions followed. "I enjoyed that process, I could feel the book was improving."
Watermelon is the tale of 15-year-old Mikey, who lives in a kids' home and will do anything to belong, even if it means running for a local drug-dealer. Kate explores the dark themes of rival gang warfare as she pushes Mikey to the limits and presses him to see what risks and choices he will take.
Kate has now completed another book, Someone Different, a story about a secret love between two young people from very different backgrounds and the pressures trying to pull them apart including drugs, abuse and youth crime.
All three of her books are now available to buy for the Kindle through Amazon under the Applecore Books imprint.
I'm delighted to introduce followers of Bookengine to Wendy Storer.
Wendy is the brilliantly talented author of teen fiction such as Bring Me Sunshine. She lives in my home town of Kendal, in the Lake District.
I first encountered her through her excellent blog Don't Tell Me The Moon's Shining which is a must-see repository of great advice for prospective writers. I recognised some of the photos on her site and made contact.
So we arranged to meet up for a chat. One wet Saturday morning in the summer I found myself walking with Wendy and her two labradoodles, Bodger and Bear, around Kendal castle (reputed and disputed as the birthplace of Henry VIII's sixth wife Katherine Parr).
The old advice 'write what you know' is all well and good, but what if you don't know much?
That's not a problem for Wendy, who has a wealth of experience to draw on.
She has worked as a waitress, pill-packer, shop assistant, nanny, child minder, shelf-stacker, cook, clerk, cleaner, teacher and hypnotherapist.
|Wendy's first book|
She'd found her vocation and couldn't stop. It became a compulsion.
She was drawn to writing about real life, real young people and their very real problems. Jacqueline Wilson was an influence.
I have a soft spot for Bring Me Sunshine as it is set in Kendal so I recognise the places she mentions and the annual Torchlight Procession that snakes through the town's grey streets.
It tells the story of Daisy who fears her life is falling apart. She worries about her Dad and her brother. Her friends think she's strange and she's given up playing the drums. Things start to look up when Dylan Bell moves back to town. Wendy says the book is about living in the moment and the power of now
Wendy's journey to Applecore has not been an easy one. She has acquired an agent and has been close to seeing her work published by major publishing houses.
When I walked with her in Kendal in August she said she thought the controversial subject matter she wrote about might be too strong for mainstream publishers and might be putting them off. She took inspiration from Kate Hanney, who was writing about similar themes.
The writer's journey, the highs, the lows, the excitement of creation, the disappointment of rejection, all is detailed with eloquence by Wendy on her blog. And she is so encouraging of others, too. She tirelessly cheers others on from the sidelines, posting enthusiastic comments on blogs such as this. Indeed I owe Wendy a big thank you for pushing Bookengine on Twitter earlier this year which led to a flurry of interviews with other authors.
Wendy offers a manuscript appraisal service for children's authors, and urges other writers to use their craft to help solve problems in their lives. She calls this 'Writing Yourself Better'.
Now, at last, with Applecore, her books are about to reach the audience they so richly deserve. She couldn't be happier.
She said: "Applecore is very exciting. It’s taken me a while to get my head around it, but I won a place at the Writers and Artists self publishing conference a couple of weeks ago and now I am totally up for it. (See my blog for reports on how that made me feel!)
"My thoughts on Applecore – I am really thrilled to be making progress, moving on, being in control, getting published. Although my books aren’t yet ready to buy, I may add some publicity about them. Bring Me Sunshine was long listed for the Mslexia Children’s Fiction Prize and I am waiting to hear if I’ve made the shortlist, so I am very proud of that. My other two books are Where Bluebirds Fly, and How to be Lucky, and I would be hoping to publish all three on Kindle in the next few weeks.
"Even though Kate and I have never met, we talk on the phone and email regularly and seem to think the same way about things. We have similar teaching backgrounds too. I think we make a great team!"
Storer and Hanney - a dynamic duo!
Wendy and Kate say on their website: "Our name is a metaphor. It's the bit of the apple most people don't want, and yet it's the bit with all the seeds for new growth. We have both worked as teachers with some of the most disadvantaged children in society, and believe that as with apple cores, every single child has the seeds within them, to grow into the person they would really love to be."
I wish them both the very best of luck.
* Here are the links in one handy place: