Carlisle author's debut children's book snapped up by publisher Harper Collins

Ms Noakes, who began writing at the age of 17, will see her book ‘Cosima Unfortunate Steals A Star’ hit the shelves and online market places from May next year. Credit: Laura Noakes

A Carlisle author’s debut book about disabled youngsters who carry out a historical jewel heist has been snapped up by publishing giant Harper Collins Children’s.

Laura Noakes, 29, has described landing a two-title deal with a company that is home to some of the country’s stellar names as "mind-blowing".

Ms Noakes, who began writing at the age of 17, will see her book Cosima Unfortunate Steals A Star hit the shelves and online market places from May next year.

It follows five children with different challenges who pull off a jewel heist in Victorian London.

Originally from Bedfordshire, Ms Noakes moved to Cumbria two years ago after landing a job at the Devil’s Porridge Museum, Eastriggs, near Annan.

She studied for a Masters degree before going on to do a PhD in legal history. She's also written articles for magazines and had her poetry published.

In her spare time, Laura - who has hypermobility spectrum disorder which causes joint dislocation and chronic pain - was pursuing her dream both of becoming a published author and bringing more diversity to children’s literature.

"I just wanted to write my own books,” she said, confessing a reluctance to show people her early work.

"It was really slow development for the first couple of years.

"More recently I’d get up at 6am and then do an hour before I went to work.

"I’d write in the evenings for a couple of hours and write all weekend."

Laura’s disability means she wears braces, knee supports and sometimes uses a walking stick.

She continued: "I’ve loved children’s books all my life but I never really saw any disabled characters depicted as heroines.

"I knew I wanted to write a book with a disabled main character, and the title character in my back, Cos, has the same disability that I have.

"I think there’s a real push at the moment in children’s literature to have more diversity, which is great. I love learning about other different cultures.

"I knew that there hadn’t been a lot of disabled characters represented in children’s literature. I thought this was a way of tapping into that. 

"Most of my characters are disabled but that’s not actually the main focal point of the story; it’s just that it happens to be who they are.

"They’re disabled and they have to maybe go about things in other ways. But they all work together and bring their different skills when they’re planning this heist."

After the idea came to mind, Laura — who lives in Currock, Carlisle, with husband Connor, and two cats Scout and Sunny — started writing during the first Covid-19 lockdown in June 2020.

She swiftly fulfilled a 2022 New Year resolution by signing with literary agent Lydia Silver, of London-based Darley Anderson.

Then, in late March, came early submissions for her debut publication, which brought stunning early results.

"I’d prepared myself for a very long wait and tried to put it out of my mind as best I could because there’s every possibility even when you have an agent that your book’s not going to be published," she said.

"Lydia emailed me on my birthday this year to say there was a couple of publishers with interest and we were going to have meetings with them.

"We were on holiday in Glasgow. I just walked around in a haze, thinking 'pinch me'. Because I’d put it to the back of my mind so much I didn’t want to even think about the disappointment I’d feel if it wasn’t published.

"I was so shocked. I was probably more shocked then than at any other point.

"When you’ve dreamt of something for so long - I was 17 when I started and wouldn’t show anybody - to realise that’s actually going to happen was a bit mind-blowing!"

After a series of intensive Zoom meetings, introductions and pitches by the keenly interested parties, Laura plumped for HarperCollins Children’s, whose current crop of authors include the stellar names of David Walliams and Michael Morpurgo.

Of making the all important choice, she recalled: "I was immediately bowled over by their enthusiasm for my story and their fabulous ideas to make Cos’s star shine even more."

Talented Italian freelance Flavia Sorrentino is the book’s illustrator.

Laura has signed a two-book deal with the publisher and is already working on a sequel as a full-time author having left The Devil’s Porridge in late September after an 18-month stint as a research officer.

"I’m still so shocked it’s getting published," she said of her debut title.

"The main thing for me is getting it into the hands of kids and them enjoying it. That would be the absolute dream."

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