Like a lot of young writers these days, I made the decision a few years ago to post some of my stories online. I loved the anonymity of it. People wouldn't judge my books based on me - or my age - but on the writing and the story itself. I had no confidence in my writing when I started, but as the popularity of my book grew, I realised that this might be something I was good at. But it wasn't until Random House contacted me and published my book, 'The Kissing Booth', that I really believed in myself. I still get a thrill walking into a Waterstones and seeing my books on the shelves!
From my online presence, I've gained fans all over the world, from the UK to the USA, Philippines and Singapore, Australia, South Africa and beyond. Social media has had a huge influence on helping me get noticed as an author by more people. Often the press coverage of social media highlights a poor reputation, but I have been lucky enough to never experience the downsides. I exchange emails, messages and Tweets daily from other young girls who either just want to tell me how much they love my books, or tell me that I inspire them, and do I have any advice for a fellow young writer?
These messages are one of the most humbling things about the lucky position I find myself in, being published at such a young age (I was seventeen when 'The Kissing Booth' came out in bookstores). There are so many other girls like me out there who like writing and don't really know what to do with this hobby, so they ask me for advice. I've set up some blog pages dedicated to advice for writers and still get more questions every day through Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and other platforms. One thing I encourage young writers to do is post their work online. The communities on websites such as Wattpad, where I started out, are very supportive and are great at both building confidence and writing ability - and, more importantly, people don't judge your books on your age or your gender.
I often feel like young writers don't get enough credit, and there are actually a lot of them out there. Some people will say that teenagers don't have enough experience to write. But for me, whilst teenagers may have experienced less of life so far, that doesn't make these worth any less and it doesn't diminish their imagination either. So why shouldn't they write if they want to? When I get messages from teens telling me I have inspired them and given them the confidence to start writing, it's really encouraging. I'm a role model for them, and I want to make the most of that to help other young writers like me. The Women of the Future Young Star award would give so much more weight to this status as a role model - even just being shortlisted for it is an incredible achievement.
Now I'm at university in Exeter, people who know I am an author automatically assume I am studying English. Once I say that I am studying for a physics degree, though, one of the first comments they make is about how many boys are studying physics, and it's not particularly popular with girls. Part of the issue with women in physics isn't exactly a lack of role models, but presenting those role models to young women in a way they're familiar with, such as Facebook and Twitter. I know that a lot of my followers online are teenage girls, so I try and talk about physics whenever I can to try and spark some interest with them. After my book was published, I was delighted to have the opportunity to do an interview with the Institute of Physics for their website. Personally, I find it fascinating to understand how the world works, and I don't think it makes any difference to the subject that I am a girl.
Through my writing and social media, I try and encourage girls to pursue the things they're interested in, whether it's a hobby they would like to make into a career - like writing - or whether it's an academic subject they want to study further, even if it's a STEM subject that's typically a male-dominated area. Girls need good role models and I am determined to be one of them.
The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 13 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.