A former student whose book The Bone Dragon has been published by Faber and Faber came back to College to talk to a group of aspiring writers.Alexia Casale’s novel is a psychological thriller narrated by a young woman dealing with a difficult past. The book takes its name from an unusual souvenir that the narrator, Evie, brings home from hospital
A former student whose book The Bone Dragon has been published by Faber and Faber came back to College to talk to a group of aspiring writers.
Alexia Casale’s novel is a psychological thriller narrated by a young woman dealing with a difficult past. The book takes its name from an unusual souvenir that the narrator, Evie, brings home from hospital – a piece of rib bone, which she carves into a dragon.
During Alexia’s visit to the College, she read some excerpts from the book, talked about the writing and publishing process, and answered questions.
Alexia wrote her book after doing English literature, Maths and Classics through Uxbridge College, then studying at Cambridge University where she gained two Masters qualifications and a PhD. She is also a qualified teacher, and has worked in other varied roles including for Broadway and West End shows, and editing human rights publications.
She said: “The best English literature teaching I have had was at Uxbridge College - I really thought it was fantastic. Now I teach myself, I look back on the teaching I had and say ‘wow’. Our teacher was dealing with a very diverse group and wanted to teach the whole range of students.
“I swapped from sixth form to come to Uxbridge College, and college was a bit more like university - you could make decisions about your own learning. I’m dyslexic, so when I have to learn to other people’s patterns, I learn really badly. It made all the difference in the world to be able to work my own way.
“Now when I teach I work with my own students on what they want to work on, as well as working with how they want to learn.
“I studied psychology at university and some of my reading at College helped me to decide to study psychology. We studied L P Hartley’s The Go Between which made me think about how people think, and what happens when things go wrong for them.
“I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was doing my A levels but I knew I needed something to write about, so I chose to study psychology at degree level. The College was so supportive when I said that I wanted to apply for Oxbridge. I chose psychology because I wanted to understand what happens for people when they have traumatic experiences, when things go wrong for them, and when relationships go wrong.”
During Alexia’s talk to students, discussions covered various issues around writing and publishing a book, including how much re-drafting was necessary and the importance of dealing with criticism constructively.
Alexia told them: “A lot of writing is re-writing. Positive feedback doesn’t tell you if someone will want to publish your book – what helps is criticism. If you want to be a writer, you have to learn to take criticism. You have to re-write with critical feedback until you think ‘I am really happy with this book’. Rewriting is about making sensible compromises.”
She also emphasised the importance of giving a reader space to use their own imagination – and of writers finding their own voices.
She said: “It’s really important to me not to tell the reader everything. I’m a total control freak in real life. In writing, I know the reader has control and I have to give them space for their imagination to come into play. It’s about voice and leaving space for the reader.”