Writer Rose Edwards, pictured, grew up in Luxembourg to British parents
Growing up in Luxembourg at a time when new English books were a scarcity fundamentally influenced debut novelist Rose Edwards’ relationship with writing and books.
Rose Edwards returned to Luxembourg at the start of 2019 after over a decade living in the UK. Although, she has quickly reconnected with old friends and networks, she says that a lot has changed in that time. The main difference being—she is now a published author, well, almost.
Her debut novel, “The Harm Tree”, a young adult fantasy fiction will be published in July by Uclan, before which she has a handful of promotional events to attend.
Another way to look at things is to say the book is a product of the changes Edwards has experienced. Growing up in Luxembourg to British parents, she admits that she was late learning to read because she didn’t want her parents to stop reading to her. “My parents were reading things like “The Sword in the Stone”. When I learned to read I had to read “Jack and Jill”. I thought ‘I’m better than this!’” she laughs. Edwards quickly made up for lost time and by the age of 9 was writing fan fiction based on the “Redwall” fantasy series by Brian Jacques.
The urge to write, she said, stemmed from the limited number of new English books in Luxembourg during the mid-'90s. Besides Chapter 1 book store, and the odd second-hand book sale, she recalled waiting impatiently for her parents to return to the UK to receive a new book. “It meant I read everything I could get my hands on because there wasn’t a huge amount of choice,” she said, adding that eventually she just picked up pen and paper and wrote her own.
Edwards carried her passion for writing throughout her undergraduate degree and then in her first jobs teaching English at secondary schools in deprived areas of North London. “It was really eye-opening working with those kids because they were so enthusiastic and so ambitious and wanted desperately to do as well as they could. You especially saw that in the early years. Then in some of the later years you saw how that energy, ambition and hope had been burned out in some cases,” she said.
Edwards was working at a time of great upheaval in the education system with the advent of academy schools, institutions which have increasingly struggled financially. Edwards suffered a burnout and left after two years. “One of the things I decided to do was a part-time Master’s degree in creating writing at Oxford University” she explained, adding that it was “probably the best decision I ever made.”
She landed a part-time job in the charity sector and threw herself into the course, writing in less familiar mediums such as drama and poetry. It was during her second year that she began “The Harm Tree”.
Did she write with former students in mind?
“I certainly write with some of those kids in mind, as readers, but also motivators. There were kids who really stuck in my mind and I thought about them and the difficulties they faced.”
Having grown up in the European School system, she says her own experience was relatively comfortable. But, as Edwards points out, it’s tough for anyone to go through adolescence, whether you have a caring support network or not. “As far as I can tell, everyone has to go through shit,” Edwards says.
“The Harm Tree” examines that difficult time in the lives of two young people growing up in a post-civil war world where tensions are constantly simmering. “As the book goes on, they become more aware of it and how strong these forces can be,” she explains, adding: “They get separated and end up being used by different sides as figures for two opposing movements.”
Edwards completed the manuscript for the novel in early 2017. It was eventually picked up in the autumn of 2018. “The Harm Tree” was the first thing Edwards has published. She has since had a short piece published in “Here Comes Everyone” magazine and now relishes the idea of writing more short fiction to submit to competitions and literary publications. But, that might have to wait as she is already working on her next project: a sequel novel.
Edwards has changed, but so too has Luxembourg. Within a short time, she has found a community of English language writers, and taught a writing workshop for children. This she credits to the widespread use of social media platforms for bringing people together.
She said she is also happy to reconnect with the natural landscape of the country, which hasn’t changed. The “forests, rolling farmland, river valleys”, which are “all things I keep coming back to when I’m trying to paint a new landscape. A lot of my characters, not only in “The Harm Tree”, but in other stories, move through it. It’s something I’ve always loved about Luxembourg, but really missed.”
“The Harm Tree” can be pre-ordered on Amazon and at Waterstones bookstore in the UK.