It was two weeks after my last exam at school when I got the email from my literary agent. "I have some very exciting news." It was some days before I discovered just how exciting the news was: six-figure sum, HarperCollins exciting.
Aged seventeen, I had secured a two-book deal with HarperCollins for my novel, The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire and its sequel, and it hadn't been the only extraordinary news I had received in one year: I had been accepted at the University of Oxford to read English too.
At this point, I feel the overwhelming desire to dive in and rant, because the words 'book deal' and 'Oxford' often equate to the assumption that I'm from a privileged background and "knew someone". I don't know anyone and I'm not from an affluent household either - very, very working class actually. What's more, the fact my novel is about vampires also elicits an emotional response, complete with curses, insults, and a general shattering of my illusion that the adult world is any less judgemental, than say, your average class of fourteen year-olds.
Now that is settled, I feel at peace enough to tell you a little bit more.
I began writing 'seriously' when I was fifteen, posting on a site called Wattpad.com, an online community of readers and writers. You may not have heard of it, but with impressive figures to rival Pinterest, it's a haven for young, aspiring authors. I certainly felt the full force of the community, with my story, The Dark Heroine gaining 17 million reads (or 'hits') over three years, a loyal following of fans 18,000 strong, and through that success, a literary agent. A lot of editing, far too many exams, three Oxford interviews, an eighteenth birthday and a book deal later, here I am. An author and university student rolled into one.
This is terrifying, of course. Oxford is famed for its academic rigour, with short, eight-week terms that promote a work-until-you-drop mentality; reading lists the size of novellas; and a general frowning upon of having a job. Whilst being an author isn't exactly your usual student job, it has deadlines, accountability and it always comes home with you. Therefore, balancing the writing of the sequel to The Dark Heroine and ensuring I stay fully dedicated to my studies is going to be tough and I have long given up any hope of a social life.
Whilst managing my time is going to be stressful, worrying about money - more specifically, student loans and debt - is not. The thought of having enough money to go to university without incurring debt has made me jump up and down with glee more than once. As a result, many people are surprised to hear that I am still taking out a loan to cover my first year of studies. This is purely logistical, though annoying. My age has made financial things very complicated and boring, and I don't think Oxford would be too happy if I didn't pay them on time. So, aside from going to university, what would any self-respecting teenager do with a six-figure sum? I'm thinking pension funds. You can't endure four years of geography at school and not be worried about the ageing population of the UK.
What about fitting in? Do I feel different, being a published author before I start university? I like to think not. I like to think I am grounded, despite all the hype and excitement and joy. Maybe I'm not. Maybe I won't stay that way. But I do have extra worries to contend with. Snobbery. Elitism. The fear that I will be looked down upon because I write vampire stories, washed-up Twilight fan fiction; the fear people will think my success is solely down to my age and gender, and not perseverance and sheer hard work. I have been fighting both since I was fifteen, and the thought of being thrown into an environment full of the very best... that's paralysing. Sometimes I can't write because of it. It scares me more than the deadlines and inevitable late nights. It's a different kind of pressure. Intangible, and deadly to the creative mind.
But it's far from being all doom and gloom. There is Fresher's Week to look forward to: seven glorious days where lifelong friendships are forged and where signing up to Ultimate Frisbee seems like an excellent idea. Perhaps I should simply inform HarperCollins that in-between the launch of the ebook and paperback of The Dark Heroine, I will be indisposed and partaking of intoxication, kissing goodbye to childhood just like any other Fresher.
But somehow, I doubt I will. I have a job, albeit an awesome job, and with a job comes responsibility. In my mind, I'm a student, but first and foremost I'm an author, a teenage author, and I left childhood behind the day I signed the contract.
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