How do you catch a killer when you can’t move and have no voice?

This is the question emblazoned across award winning author Penny Joelson’s debut novel I Have No Secrets.

It has been published by Egmont and has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2018.

The novel is her literary debut and it was selected as one of five titles for teenagers in this year’s World Book Day and so Penny, 48, from Potter’s Bar, visited visited Dame Alice Owen School on the day.

The school’s librarian, Sheila Compton, comments: “Penny spoke to the whole of Year 7 and then did some creative writing workshops with smaller groups of students. I was thrilled that Penny was able to visit the school to help us celebrate World Book Day.

“Not only is she a local author but her book has been very popular here since it was published, it is a really engaging thriller that also touches on so many other important questions.

“It certainly has the ‘can’t put it down’ quality that makes the reader want to keep reading, and it has been enjoyed by students and adults.”

In the novel 14-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change…

I spoke to her to find out more…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Southgate.

Have you always been interested in writing from childhood or is it something you started later?

I loved reading and writing stories from an early age. I won a borough wide writing competition when I was 11.

What made you sit down and begin writing for the first time?

I’ve always written so there’s no first time but when I started writing this book Jemma’s inner voice came through so strongly and I felt this book was going to be something special.

Where do you find inspiration?

From my own experience, people I’ve met, news articles, radio, overheard conversations...

Do you have a process you follow when writing?

I am a planner so I like to have an outline before I write, though I do change it as I go along. Thinking time, walking, etc. are an important part of my process too. It took three-years to write I Have No Secrets - so I let the process work in its own time.

I was thrilled to get a two book deal from Egmont so I was under contract to write the second book much more quickly. I had to be far more disciplined and set daily word targets. Girl in the Window will be published in August.

How do you deal with writers block?

Take a break or go for a walk. Write something else. Panic!

Anything to add?

As well as being selected for World Book Day, I Have No Secrets has been shortlisted for nine awards including the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s Children’s Book Award.

I enjoyed speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Jersey Festival. I am also enjoying visiting local secondary schools.