Half Bad author Sally Green recalls her younger days in Lytham
PUBLISHED: 17:48 09 May 2014 | UPDATED: 23:56 23 October 2015
Lytham’s Sally Green has conjured up a novel that has bewitched the publishing world. She spoke to Roger Borrell
Sally Green could be forgiven for seeming a little breathless. In just over a year, she has cast a spell over the publishing world with a book about witchcraft that has drawn comparisons with JK Rowling.
Her debut novel, Half Bad, placed her at the eye of a PR storm after Penguin snapped it up followed by a stampede of more than 30 publishers worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Fox 2000 and there has been speculation that her three book deal could be worth as much as £1million.
The Lancashire lass has come a long way from pulling pints at the County Hotel in Lytham. ‘One of my first jobs was collecting the glasses there because I was under 18,’ she recalls.
‘Then I was a waitress before going behind the bar. I can still remember that a pint of Boddington’s cost 44p. Goodness knows what it is now. I also served sandwiches across the road in the Lytham Kitchen.’
Sally, now in her early 50s, was born and grew up in Lytham and her mum, Maureen Johnstone, still lives there. She attended Queen Mary’s School before studying a geology degree in London. Sally returned home broke and got a job as a trainee accountant in Chorley, eventually settling down near Warrington with her husband, a local businessman.
She said: ‘My son is 11 and I had been a full-time mum. I was starting to think I should be out there looking for work again. I hadn’t expected to have another full-time job but I’ve certainly got one now!’
Sally’s passion for writing came out of the blue three years ago. ‘When I started writing Half Bad I never thought it would be published. It was a private thing – I was writing for myself.’
She sent Half Bad on spec to a top London literary agent, who looks after writers like Ian McEwan and Nick Hornby. It ended up on a pile of 200 unsolicited manuscripts before being picked up by one of the team. The rest is history.
‘The reaction has all been a bit of a shock to be honest. I wasn’t expecting it. The promotional and PR side has, if anything, been harder than writing the book. It’s great, but life has become unbelievably busy.’
Finding the time to produce the second book in the trilogy, Half Wild, has required focus to balance writing with PR and family life. ‘I have to be organised,’ she said. ‘I just write all the time, mainly late at night. It’s quiet then, no TV and no telephone and I just get stuck in. I’m not a morning person.’
The hype means there’s pressure on her to deliver and the comparison with the Harry Potter author has its good and its bad sides. ‘It’s very flattering but it does create considerable pressure. If I was anywhere near as successful it would be great, but we have very different styles.’
One person who hasn’t read Half Bad is her son. ‘He’s too young and he understands that. I’ve been surprised that it has been read by some his age because it was written in an adult style and it does contain some edgy violence, although it’s never glorified.’
Her mum Maureen has read it at least a couple of times. ‘My mum is over the moon. She has been my biggest publicist in Lytham and told everyone at bridge.’
Will the money change her? ‘It’s a good deal and it means that financially, I can carry on writing. But I’m certainly not in the market for a bigger house. If anything, downsizing would make life easier. All this has made me appreciate the pleasures of staying in a really lovely hotel.’
Half Bad mentions London and Liverpool but Sally pictures places around her Grappenhall home in Cheshire when she is writing.
She still visits Lytham regularly to see her mother and recently went to the County for the first time in a decade. So could the landmark Lytham inn feature in one of the sequels to Half Bad? ‘You know,’ she said ‘that’s not a bad idea…’
Half Bad, the story of a boy struggling to survive in a society of secret witches, is published in paperback by Penguin, priced £7.99.