David resents the fact that he was not raised by wolves and was therefore robbed of a good story to tell at parties. He turned to fiction to compensate for his unremarkable existence.
He achieved 1st class honours in BA Creative Writing and MA Writing for Children at The University of Winchester, where he went on to teach on the BA Creative Writing course for three years. He hopes that one day all of his students will surpass his own achievements.
David’s debut YA novel, Panther, will be published by Constable & Robinson in May 2015.Panther is a funny, touching, and occasionally unsettling coming-of-age story, which deals candidly with the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding depression.
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1. What is your book about?
Panther is about a family that is struggling very badly with the destructive impact of depression. Derrick's sister is suffering very badly, and following a suicide attempt the entire family becomes beholden to the illness. At the same time there's a rumour that a wild panther is on the loose in the London suburb where they live, and one night Derrick thinks he sees it. He convinces himself that if he can catch it, he can fix everything that's gone wrong in his family.
It's about how mental illness can have ripple effects on families and beyond, and we struggle to deal with it because we don't try hard enough to talk and understand.
It also has some really rubbish jokes.
2. Where did the idea for Panther come from?
A couple of things! It's partly inspired by real things that happened to my family. My sister had depression when we were teenagers, and I utterly failed to understand what she was going through. A little later in life I was diagnosed with depression too, and very much understood what she had been going through! So I felt pretty horribly guilty for how I had behaved back then. To some extent the book is an apology for that, and an attempt to stop others making the same mistake.
The panther aspect is also from real life. For decades there's been rumours that there's a panther on the loose around the London suburb I grew up in. There have been sightings, the police have come out after it, and its allegedly attacked people. I've always been fascinated with it, and it seemed to fit this book incredibly well.
3. Are you working on anything at the moment?
I have two things which are very close to being finished, another YA and a middle grade book. I can't say too much about them at the moment, but I'm hoping they'll see the light of day soon!
4. Who are some of your favourite authors?
I am an unabashed Patrick Ness fanboy - The Knife Of Never Letting Go was the first 'modern' YA book that I really loved, and A Monster Calls was a huge influence on Panther. I'm also a fan of Non Pratt, Siobhan Dowd, Marcus Sedgwick, Rainbow Rowell... too many YA authors to name!
I also love Matt Haig, who just writes gloriously beautiful, sensitive, astute books, Nick Harkaway, who combines absurdity, intellect, and big action with great story telling, and... yeah, too many to mention!
5. Who inspires you?
All of the above authors inspire me because their work is so fantastic in countless ways. But I find any author, any creative person inspiring, because writing and being creative is hard, often without much tangible reward, and to keep doing it regardless is so admirable.
I'm also inspired by all the people who have depression and mental illness and are talking about it, being open about it, trying to help others who are suffering, and fighting against stigma. Those people are amazing, and I want to be more like them.
Life isn't going terribly well for Derrick; he's become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he's hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it's all because of his sister. Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to turn capture it. Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he'll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?
Panther is a bold and emotionally powerful novel that deals candidly with the effects of depression on those who suffer from it, and those who suffer alongside them.