Kirkby ex-beauty queen turns children’s author

Kirkby author Kim Slater
Kirkby author Kim Slater

A former beauty queen from Kirkby has realised one of her all-time ambitions by winning a book deal after going back to university aged 40.

Kim Slater’s first book, Smart, a young adult fiction novel, is set to be published on 5th June and Kim says it will be ‘an amazing feeling’ seeing it on the shelves of book shops.

Smart by Kim Slater

Smart by Kim Slater

Her success comes after deciding aged 40 to go to university and enrol on a creative writing course in a bid to fulfil her dream of becoming a published author.

“My daughter was looking at doing A levels and it suddenly occurred to me that I could go back to uni and do an MA in creative writing,” said Kim.

“I had always been a massive reader and always written: I used to write stories for my brother who was seven years younger than me.

“I tried to get an agent while my daughter was growing up and felt that when the time came, I wanted to get some writing training.”

Kim, who was the winner of the Miss Sherwood Forest title in 1986 and even appeared on the Chad’s front page toasting her victory, signed up for an English and creative writing degree at Nottingham Trent University, fitting in her work as a self-employed school bursar around her studies.

After that she then did a part-time MA in creative writing and it was during this that she got her big break.

She was taken on by literary agency Darley Anderson and secured a book deal with Macmillan Children’s Books in 2012 - all before she had graduated.

And Kim says that it was doing her degrees that helped her achieve this feat.

“It really gave me that fantastic grounding in writing and helped me develop my craft,” she said.

It was during a children’s fiction module that Kim did as part of her MA that she developed the idea for Smart.

“My book started off as a short story assignment for my MA,” she said.

“I got really good feedback from my peers in a workshop and felt like I had got something special so decided to develop it as a full-length young adult novel.”

Kim says she gets inspiration for her work from real life but did not always intend to be a young adult fiction writer and does want to branch out into adult fiction in the future.

“I am just finishing my second book now, another young adult book,” she said.

“But my agent is very open to me writing adult fiction as well so that is a challenge that lies ahead.”

Smart is about a boy called Kieran who is different to other children and only feels safe alone down by the river, where he goes to sketch.

When he finds a homeless man’s body in the water and the police say the death was just a tragic accident, Kieran decides he has to find out what happened to the man - and sets out to discover the truth.

Kim said that early reviews have ‘been great’ and she is flattered with comparisons that have been made to Mark Haddon’s bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

“Macmillan have done an amazing job with my book and the cover, I absolutely adore,” she said.

Kim said that the experience she gained entering beauty contests when she was young has helped her get where she is now, giving her confidence in public speaking and being in a room full of people, among other skills.

“I am really proud of those times,” she said.

“A lot of people don’t agree with them but I never felt pressurised in any way and in those days they were a lot more popular.”

Kim, who moved to Nottingham a few years ago following the break up of her marriage, hopes that her personal journey shows that it is never too late to do what you want to do in life.

“I feel like I have come a long way from that and I am really happy and reaching my goals,” she added.