Childhood memories inspire author Dawn

Author Dawn McNiff has used memories of Shoreham and Steyning in her new book
Author Dawn McNiff has used memories of Shoreham and Steyning in her new book

AN author born on Shoreham Beach has used memories of the area in her latest children’s book.

Dawn McNiff now lives in Stroud but her mum lives in Upper Beeding and many of her family are still in the area, so she visits often.

Little Celeste is her first fiction book for nine to 12-year-olds, although she has previously written for younger children.

It is set in the landscape of her childhood, a fictional Sussex town that is a mix of all the towns she remembers from her childhood.

Dawn said: “I’m settled in Stroud, but I love Sussex and I really miss the sea and the Downs. I visit Sussex regularly, because all my family and some old school friends live down there.

“My mum lives in Upper Beeding and her family have lived in Brighton for generations.

“I miss the beaches down here, especially out-of season when they can be so melancholy and moody.”

Dawn remained in the Shoreham and Steyning area until she was 19. She went to Bristol University in 1988 and moved to Stroud in Gloucestershire in 1992, where she had two daughters.

She went to Steyning Grammar School and was inspired by her childhood homes when writing the book about 11-year-old Shelley, who finds a mysterious baby on her bed.

Dawn added: “Drizzly, pebbly beaches, beach huts and seagulls form the perfect, sad backdrop when my main character, Shelley, is feeling down.

“Shelley also has a south-east accent when she talks – just like I do. I read my writing out loud so I can hear her voice in my head.”

Little Celeste is the first in a three-book deal that Dawn secured with Hot Key Books last year. It follows the adventures of Shelley in a story full of magic, mischief and surprising friendships.

Olivia Mead, from Hot Key Books, said: “It is a heart-warming and sensitive look at mother/daughter relationships, narrated by the delightfully unique voice of Shelley.”

Dawn has had books published in the UK and USA, under her own name and a pseudonym, including her picture book for three to seven-year-olds, Mummy’s Little Monster.

She said it took her ‘years and years’ to get a book published but doing an MA in creative writing for young people was a turning point, because she had to experiment with techniques.