The Meridian by Ellie Halls

Seventeen-year-old Esther and her younger sister Lily are struggling to survive looking after their alcoholic mum. One day, Esther has enough of being the responsible older sister and spends the family’s allowance on a trip to The Meridian, a world built for the imagination, with compacted time that promises weeks of imaginary escapism crammed into just a couple of days in the real world.

 

But there’s a cost.

 

Everyone in The Meridian has had their memories of the real world stolen and is trapped in the points controlled society. Only Esther knows the truth about the beautiful world that becomes more dangerous for her every day, especially when she finds The Awakened. Esther is desperate for a way to break out and be reunited with Lily, but will she betray the friendships she finds in The Meridian for her own freedom?

About the Author

Before undertaking the Writing For Young People MA, Ellie gained her BA in Publishing with Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Following that, she settled into life as a Marketing Assistant, balancing writing fiction with constructing articles and webpages on legal matters. Despite loving her job, Ellie always looked back at her dream of becoming an author, her head still filled with characters desperate for their stories to be written. In 2019 she took the plunge and let go of her Marketing career to return to Bath Spa for the MA, where her passion for writing flourished as she took the next step towards sharing her stories.

On the course, Ellie found herself drawn to writing for Young Adult and Middle Grade – her imagination embellishing her stories with ghosts, myths, magic, and parallel worlds. When she decided to pursue Young Adult fiction, Ellie knew she wanted to write a story for her younger sister. She decided to avoid love triangles and teen romance, and instead write a story that draws on the power of a bond between two sisters and the hard learned ability to love your flaws which is what The Meridian became.

Since completing the MA, Ellie has returned to her home county of Norfolk, where she enjoys escaping into the beautiful countryside and any sci-fi or fantasy fiction she can get her hands on. Currently, she is working part time as an Administrative Assistant for a Smart Homes company, which allows her to continue doing the thing she loves most: writing.

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The Meridian by Ellie Halls, introduced by Freya Norley, Dominic Royston, Marine Brenier and Jessamy Corob Cook

Intriguing from the start, the Meridian world and its rules pull you in and refuse to let you go as it takes you on a thrilling ride with the funny, smart and determined protagonist, Esther. Ellie manages to balance relatable conflicts like fitting in and navigating social hierarchy, with high stakes for Esther and the world she comes to rebel against.

Ellie creates a compelling world in The Meridian with originality and detail that make it both strange and unsettlingly familiar. It’s a pleasure to discover alongside Esther, and seeing Esther engage with its different aspects, from futuristic technology to unspoken rules, The Meridian feels like it could be our very own world in the near-distant future. The story explores, with subtlety and intelligence, many issues that matter to teens today. This novel is a commentary on our society, and a teenager’s search for identity and belonging that will captivate any YA reader.

Ellie has a fantastic voice for YA: sassy, well-paced and evocative. Watch this space for Ellie's Black Mirror meets Hunger Games YA novel.

What was your inspiration for this story?

It started with a simple question: what if life was a video game where you could be reborn and level up or down depending on your life achievements? Then I started to wonder what society would value, and if that could be corrupted to control the people in this world.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

What I loved most about the MA, and what makes it memorable, was being surrounded by creative thinkers with incredible ideas, so many different incredible ideas and takes on how to approach writing and writing for young people. It was enlightening to be around people like that week after week.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

That you need to let some good ideas go (or perhaps put them in a ‘use in later projects’ document) to let the great ideas blossom and come forward. Also, don’t over-complicate things!

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

I love the planning, the ‘imagination running wild at the start of an idea’ part of the writing process. I like the bursts of inspiration that can come later on in a draft that make changes that ripple through the narrative and give it new layers of meaning.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Walking and hiking have always been hobbies of mine, but during this year they have been lifesavers for my mental health. I also find walking helps when I’m stuck on a detail in my writing; it’s a metaphorical massage working out the writing knots.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Another way I work out my writer’s block is to read other people’s work and see what they do. There are so many great books and great authors, and we’re lucky to have some of them teaching on our course or having passed through the course. Take inspiration from anywhere you can. No two authors will ever write even the same concept the same. You are unique: revel in it.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I had my head stuck in a book pretty much all of my childhood, reading anything from Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith to Jacqueline Wilson and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket). The two books I remember truly loving, though, were Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Louis Sachar’s Holes. The split timeline and puzzle-like quality of Holes made it an engaging read, and the haunting quality of The Graveyard Book was something I hadn’t found in a book before and I thought it was beautiful.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

I’d love to visit Lyra’s Oxford in Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. The ideas of running across the rooftops of the college and having a daemon have always been appealing to me. Lyra’s world is exciting and dangerous and Pullman paints it so vividly that it’s hard to resist dreaming about being there yourself.