English graduate’s first novel hits high-street book shops

Sarah Ann Juckes, who graduated with an English BA from Loughborough, has described how her first novel has come to sit on the shelves of the book shop she visited as a child.

Sarah started writing Outside in 2014, after three other unpublished drafts, which in her words, “didn't quite make the cut”. A dark, voice-lead thriller for young adults and above, Outside tells the story of Ele, who has spent her life trapped inside a small room with nothing but books and the Others for company. When she finds a hole in the wall, the truth of the Outside world starts leaking in.

Sarah said: “I wrote my first book before University and realised pretty soon that getting anything published was going to be near-impossible. I loved writing though, so I took every Creative Writing module I could as part of my English BA. At Loughborough, I fell in love with words all over again and learned how to push the boundaries of language to create something that felt entirely my own. More than that though, the tutors at Loughborough showed me that with enough hard work, even something as unlikely as getting a novel published is possible. 

“The idea came to me on the train and the more I explored Ele's world of fairytales and trees, the faster I wrote.”

On the inspiration for Outside, Sarah said: “My mind works in mysterious ways and story ideas will often just pop into my head without any rhyme or reason. This one definitely had influences, though: Emma Doneghue's Room is one of my favourite books for its depiction of captivity through innocent eyes. The voice was also inspired by the brilliant Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman – a very different book, but with a beautiful voice.” 

She describes the experience of being published and seeing her work in the shops as “some kind of crazy dream!”

“I saw it for the first time in the Waterstones I went to as a kid, and it was a surreal moment. The thing I love the most is when readers chat to me about the story like it's as real to them as it was for me when I wrote it. There's something really special about that.”

Outside is available to buy from AmazonWaterstones and the Book Depository. More information about Sarah’s work is available on her website.