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Rebecca Lloyd

As a child

I was born in New Zealand, and spent the first half of my childhood in England and the second half in Australia. At least that’s what I always thought until recently, looking at the dates of our voyages from one side of the world to the other, I discovered to my amazement that I’d only spent four years in Australia, and yet it feels as if all my young life was spent there. If I could return to one place in my childhood, it would be the ruined tennis court at the bottom of our rambling Sydney garden. One end was dry and full of insects and the other was permanently under an inch of water and teaming with pond life. I wandered between the two environments trying to understand how nature works. Of everything I learnt there, nothing was as extraordinary as the evening I stood in the dry section after dark and became aware that the ground was covered in thousands and thousands of tiny luminous discs. It was as if the sky had fallen to the ground and dragged the stars down with it. I realised after a while that the discs were the underside of the lid that trapdoor spiders make to conceal their burrows in the daytime, and that the luminosity of the lids attracted insects to the burrows after dark. These spiders are not deadly, in fact some of them like to play dead, but this isn’t the same thing.

As an adult

I spent the first part of my adult life working in science, but it was a very closed world and I was restless; I wanted to know about other cultures before I got much older. So I took an MSc. in tropical diseases diagnosis - and went to work high up in the mountains of Tanzania in a remote hospital laboratory where on the top floor you often walked through the clouds themselves. Because I had studied anthropology, I was able to use those skills to (partially), win the trust of the isolated tribal people who lived there. I had a visitor from England once who set off with his camera into the forest and I found out later that ten tribesmen had tracked him all the way, and he never knew a thing about it. When I asked them why they did it, they said because they could. The stories I heard and the experiences I had up there in the mountains, both terrible and wonderful, were awesome, and I began to write things down - anecdotes, beliefs, stories, hopes and fears. I saw a lot of death and poverty, and I saw extraordinary beauty both in nature and in the kindness of people. I didn’t know it then, but in recording the things I heard, I had taken my first steps as a writer. In the same way that my four years as a child in Australia feels to me like a whole childhood, my two years in Africa feels like another whole lifetime.

As an author

Once back from Africa and living in East London, I began to write short stories and made some early attempts at novel writing. I was also very much engaged with the local communities as a victim support worker. I had direct access to the lives of people I never could’ve met in any other way, and those experiences, although never told directly in my stories, were inspirational. I was very moved by what people told me and by how they lived and what they thought. My story ‘The River’ which won the Bristol Prize in 2008 was my farewell story to life in East London. These days, I live in a kinder place, and although I have never sought ‘social safety,’ I have been aware that as you grow older, there’s a balance to be struck between the energy that’s taken from you by the environment you live in and the energy that’s left for writing. So although the young people’s novels I have written are fantastical, they are, I hope, grounded in real life. I write fiction everyday. I work directly onto my computer, but do have a notebook which is almost constantly with me when I’m out. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to find a sentence, phrase or description I remember writing in one of my notebooks, and need to use. I write in a small and cluttered room which gets alarmingly cold in the winter – I have a pair of fingerless gloves. On the other hand in the summer, I can sit with my feet on my big windowsill and write while looking out at my garden where, due to the enthusiasm my neighbours have about wildlife, a great diversity of insect, bird and plant life is all around us – as well as newts, frogs and toads of all sizes.

Things you didn't know about Rebecca Lloyd

  1. I love moths, and the English names for them; they are poetic and fascinating – Lover’s Knot, Hart and Dart, the moth Uncertain, Mother Shipton, Cream-spot Tiger.
  2. I think I would like to go up in an air balloon, but I’m also nervous of heights, and so now I just watch them floating over my house in the summer and wave up to the little people in the baskets, and imagine they can see me and are waving back.
  3. My garden is full of toads, frogs and newts, and every night in summertime I go out with a torch and see how many of each I can spot.
  4. I’m very bad at wrapping presents; I always make a real mess of it, and have been advised that I should use tissue paper.
  5. I think I should swim more because I do love it, but I never seem to be able to fit it into my day.
  6. I don’t know if I was a day-dreaming child or not, but I wish that the idea of day-dreaming was thought about more kindly by adults, because in day-dreaming you are using your imagination, and it is a precious thing.
  7. When it isn’t cold or windy, or raining, I love to take my bike out and cycle down leafy lanes and along the side of the river.
  8. I love clouds and how you can imagine faces and animals and landscapes in them. I’ve watched clouds since I was little, and think I always will.
  9. My favourite food is prawns – I could eat them till the seas run dry.
  10. In my best dreams, I am flying, sometimes above fields, sometimes high up by the ceilings in vast rooms.

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