Fantasy tale a winner

MIKE HOULAHAN IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 16:31 06/03/2013
Southland Times photo
WILMA MCCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ
Author Rachel Stedman.

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Rachel Stedman was an award-winning writer before she published her first novel, which bodes well for the book's fortunes.

The Storylines Tessa Duder Award for young fiction writers is awarded annually for a writer who has not published a work for the young adult market and winning the 2012 award has been life-changing for Stedman.

"The Storylines award has been immense and it's just such a wonderful opportunity. The chances to get published are so small, so the opportunity to submit to a really good competition and know that you will be able to be published as a result is amazing."

Stedman, a former physiotherapist, always wanted to write. Her former profession helped inform A Necklace Of Souls, as her physiology training meant she could write authoritatively about aspects of the main characters development as they trained for combat.

"My background is in neuro-rehab, so a lot of my work was in development of stance, balance and ways of moving.

"One of the things I did was look at the way people move and I tried to use that in parts of the book, but what really inspired that part was I did some kick boxing, so used some of what my instructor told me."

Throw in several hours of watching knife fighting videos on You Tube, and Stedman's combat scenes ring true, even if she seems an unlikely rough-houser.

While Stedman's book is pitched as young adult fiction, other than its youthful main characters there is little teenaged about A Necklace Of Souls.

Fantasy has a long tradition of heroes and heroines beginning a saga in their youth and coming of age as they battle the evil sweeping the land, and A Necklace Of Souls is no exception.

"The first draft, it started with her being very young and moving through to being 16, but as I redid it it started when she was 13, which almost automatically made it a young adult novel.

"That's probably the group that is going to engage with it most readily but you can read it at any level."

While Princess Dana was always going to be the star of A Necklace Of Souls, the character of Will Baker - a boy who saves and then forms a bond with Dana - became stronger and stronger.

In the end, inspired by Twilight, Stedman gave over half the book to Will; his story is told in the third person, Dana's in first person.

"Will was a back-story, but as I went on it was interesting watching the two stories developing and how they related to each other," Stedman says.

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"The reason why I did it first person/third person will hopefully become apparent by the end of the series . . . which will continue if there enough sales."

- D Scene

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