Camilla Chester talks about her debut novel Jarred Dreams

Jarred Dreams by Camilla Chester

Jarred Dreams by Camilla Chester - Credit: Archant

Camilla Chester’s debut children’s novel, Jarred Dreams focuses on a grotesque ghoul who steals children’s dreams, storing them in jars in his cellar.

It is an engaging read, full of adventure and mystery as the main character, 12-year-old Sade, tries to uncover the truth about the Dream Thief. The book was shortlisted in the National Literacy Trust New Author Prize 2015, and has been described as, “gripping”, “full of suspense”, “intriguing” and “brilliant” by reviewers. This is a good read for anyone aged 9+.

Camilla said always enjoyed creating stories for the 8-12 year age range as “this is when children are beginning to read more independently, embracing their own imagination and beginning to learn where the world of books can take them”.

The main inspiration for her novel grew out of her interest in dreams and a conversation with her two daughters about what a world without dreams might be like. “The idea for the story then began to form as we talked about who would do such a horrible thing and why.”

Early drafts focused on the nightmarish character of the Dream Thief but Camilla felt that was a little overly dark. She introduced the brave, colourful and fearless Sade which gave the narrative a fresh angle, adding more depth and complexity to the plot.

Chester is part of The Verulam Writing Circle and found the encouragement of the St Albans writing group invaluable as her novel took shape.

“When I got serious about my writing I found three things worked for me. Firstly, enrolling on an Open University creative writing course. Secondly, joining writing groups, including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI). And lastly entering the competition, as when the book was successful, it raised my profile within the industry and lead to all sorts of opportunities.”

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As a self-published author, Camilla has relied on her membership of SCWBI to advise and guide her through the complex procedure of publication. She is involved in every step of the journey from the finished manuscript on her laptop, to the paperback on the shop bookshelves. To date, she has acquired many new skills that aren’t automatically associated with being an author – website design, the production of the book, designing a cover, public speaking as well as running a marketing campaign!

Many of Camilla’s early reviews came from young readers themselves and for her, the highlight of being a published author was wandering into her daughter’s school playground to overhear students animatedly discussing the book. She has also fulfilled another ambition – to hold a paperback copy of her first novel in her hands!