Steve Voake – Writing for the Young Adult

Hampshire Writers’ Society 8th December 2015

Report Lisa Nightingale

A special festive celebration with members of the committee dressed as characters from children’s books and  energetic entertainment from the Winchester Morris Men.

Steve Voake, children’s author

Writing for the Young Adult

‘What if…..’ ‘Once upon a time ….’

Stories always push at Steve Voake’s mind. While out for a walk one day he began looking at insects as military vehicles – wasps became fighter planes, ants became tanks.

He began writing what was to be The Dreamwalker’s Child. 30,000 words later, he hated it. He couldn’t leave it alone now, not after investing so much time and effort in it. So, guess what? He went for a walk and thought ‘You know what? When writing gets really hard – it is not that you can’t do it. It’s just got really hard.’

Steve Voake picture

Steve, a busy Head Teacher and father of young children, concocted a work schedule. He settled on a goal, his most productive writing place and time and the novel was finished.

He submitted to various agents, including Colville and Walsh who said, wait 3 months. Then they told him to wait a little longer. Eventually they decided to ‘work with it.’ The deal was done and book 2 was due in only 9 months. Work schedule or not, Steve admits it ‘nearly killed him.’

When the next deal offered was for 3 books. He loved his teaching job, but it was time for change.

Using the ‘What if…’ question followed by the 3 rules of writing –

  1. Conflict
  2. Conflict
  3. Conflict

The high-octane Starlight Conspiracy was written. Using the same mantra, Blood Hunters followed. Steve always steers clear of grotesque and swearing. Some children do like to be frightened. More like to read their character living through those fears. Hope is at the core of his characters’ stories.

Steve VoakeIt was then that an opportunity not to be missed came his way – the chance to work with his cousin. The Insect Detective, a non-fiction children’s book was produced.

Daisy Dawson, a girl who can communicate with animals and Hooey Higgins, a boy getting up to mischief with memorable friends provided Steve with a lot of fun.

Writing can be a solitary life and he began to miss the hubbub of school life. He began giving paid-by-the-hour lectures at the University of Bath. This grew into a regular slot on their Creative Writing course. He agrees with the notion – ‘Make progress. Get it written. Then review the wreckage.’


Steve Voake, ex-headteacher and critically acclaimed author of novels for the young adult, including The Dreamwalker’s Child, The Web of Fire, The Starlight Conspiracy, Dark Woods, Bloodhunters.

To find out more about Steve Voake’s books go to his publisher’s website:

Special Guest: Dr Vanessa Harbour

‘I have the best job in the world!’ says Dr Vanessa Harbour of the Faculty of Arts at Winchester University.

As an English student at Winchester University, she had no intention of writing for children. However, she gave it a go and found her ‘voice’.

Since then creative writing has found its voice at Winchester University too. Outward module are core to the course equipping student with the tools to make writing a viable career choice.

Dr Vanessa also works with Imogen Cooper, instigator of the Golden Egg Academy. The ‘Eggs’ are the Academy students. The Academy nurtures their eggs until their craft is perfectly honed. Congratulations Golden Egg Academy – their 13th egg has just been awarded a publishing contract. And that is just in 3 years!

Dr Vanessa is still writing. She is currently mid-way through a middle-grade story based on the harsh facts of war.

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