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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Spark: Sharp Edges

The Spark is a series of guest blogs to highlight new African fiction, with writers talking about their books in their own words. (Writers, if you want to be a part of it, please check out the guidelines here.)

Sally Patridge (Or SA as she’s known on book jackets) is a hugely dedicated, hard-working and talented young writer who write provocative, timely and thoughtful YA with, well, sharp edges. She’s won the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel twice, first for her debut, The Goblet Club, about bullied teens, and for Dark Poppy’s Demise about the perils of online relationships. She’s also been short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize and Fuse was an IBBY Honour Book

This is what lit up the story of Sharp Edges in her head: 


The Spark for Sharp Edges

Sally 2

Inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes an idea will come to me in a dream, and then when morning comes I have a couple of minutes to capture it before it drifts off to wherever dreams go during the day. Or I could see someone walking down the street and think to myself, “I wonder what his deal is?”

That spark of inspiration is like nothing else in the world. It’s bright and clear and all encompassing. It’s a lightning bolt from the heavens landing squarely in the writer’s brain. Once it hits nothing else matters but the story.

For Sharp Edges, the spark was a picture of a girl on the Internet.

It was one of those work-avoidance sites like Pinterest or I don’t even remember what I was browsing for, although I suspect it was something geeky like Adventure Time cosplay or steampunk-inspired fashion. I wasn’t expecting a girl with the saddest eyes in the word to appear in the feed.  But she did. And it was one of those shadowy, haunting pictures that always get stuck in my mind.

Her story seemed obvious. A girl without a dad, out of her mind with grief, but with no one to talk to. Her suffering ran deep. She remembered her friend’s father who used to take them to the park and she screamed with exhilaration because he made the merry-go-round spin too fast.

The spark planted the seed and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Her name was V. So many things start with V. She was always a loner. The guys wanted her, but she was never really interested. Her friends loved her, but they didn’t really know her at all.

I should have saved the picture, but I didn’t. I haven’t been able to find it again either. But it doesn’t matter. The story was germinating.

The seed sprouted leaves – the other characters.  I created six friends that went to a music festival in the Cederberg, but only five returned. The girl that died haunted them all, leaving those already fragile creatures broken, full of sharp edges. 

The stem became the plot. The death became a murder. One of the remaining five was responsible, but which one? Each character remembered something different. Their suspicions broke them down further; destroying their relationships and friendships. 

From there the story grew further. Roots in the form of back-stories extended into the earth.

I wrote each chapter from the point of view of a different teenager, each with a unique perception of what happened. Each character was real and full of life, but like leaves slowly started to crisp around the edges before falling to the ground one by one.

Sharp Edges was never going to be a happy story. There were no bright blossoms to lighten the atmosphere.

But V. There will always be something special about V – the rose among the thorns, my dark girl from the Internet. She went to find the man that used to push her on the swings.

“I pick the petals from a white rose and think about turning around and going home. I haven’t spoken to Ashley since that weekend. Why would she care if I need someone to talk to? She has her own life, her own problems. She’ll probably think I’m pathetic, showing up on her doorstep, wet and miserable.

I’m about to go when the front door opens and Adam comes out, carrying a box of tools. He does a little double take when he sees me. I’m sure the sudden appearance of a drenched and bedraggled teenager in the front yard would give anyone a fright.

“Can I help you?”

For a second I’m not sure what to say. I stare at the crushed petals in my hand and slowly let them fall to the ground.”

That’s only part of the story though. One stem. Maybe one day I’ll tell the rest of it…

Watch the book trailer for Sharp Edges here:

Follow Sally on Twitter: @sapartridge

Visit her website:

Kindle edition coming soon. In the meantime buy Sharp Edges here or from your local indie bookstore.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    October 9th, 2013 @13:27 #

    Calling South African and African writers: I'm trying to fill up the dance card for The Spark, a guest blog series that highlights new African lit.

    If you have a new book out (last six months) or coming out, now or into next year, send me a query!

    Here are the two previous Sparks and the guidelines on sending me a query below:

    Alex Latimer on The Space Race (including guidelines)

    Novuyo Rosa Tshuma on Shadows

    Want to write a guest blog for The Spark?

    Please read the following guidelines VERY CAREFULLY. Or your query will end up in my spam folder.

    Please query me first VIA EMAIL, not Facebook. Please do NOT send me a completed essay.

    You should be a South African or African writer, in the broadest and most inclusive sense of that. I’m looking to highlight all kinds of writers across all kinds of fiction.

    You should have a new novel or short story collection out (allowing for a six month window. eg. if your book came out in the last six months, it’s eligible.) If it’s coming out later this year, query me now with the release date.

    I’m not doing non-fiction at this time.

    The book has to be published by an established third party publisher (ie. no vanity press, Smashwords, Amazon Digital Services etc, no self-published ebooks). Please don’t try to convince me otherwise. It’s my blog, my rules.

    What I’m looking for:
    You should be able to write a personal guest blog 400-1000 words that will give readers insight into what sparked off this book for you, what it’s about, what you put into it, how you built that spark into a blaze. It can be funny, moving, sad, gut-wrenching, silly, enraging as long as it’s personal. The idea is you get to talk about your work and pitch it to a potential new audience.

    To query me, email me via my contact form ( with the words THE SPARK QUERY in the subject line.

    In this pitch, please include your name, a sentence about you, the title of the book, a sentence or two on what your spark was and what you’re going to write about and the book’s publication info (release date, publisher)

    If I say yes, awesome, then I’ll slot you in and give you a deadline for your essay.

    I'm hoping to fill up the roster, so read the guidelines and get in touch.


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