Author who turned down Johnny Depp

LESS than two years ago Saci Lloyd was eking out a living as head of media at Newham sixth-form college, writes ELEANORE ROBINSON. Now a bestselling author, she has publicists on both sides of the Atlantic and has turned down the advances of one Mr Johnny

LESS than two years ago Saci Lloyd was eking out a living as head of media at Newham sixth-form college, writes ELEANORE ROBINSON.

Now a bestselling author, she has publicists on both sides of the Atlantic and has turned down the advances of one Mr Johnny Depp.

Around 15,000 copies of her first book, The Carbon Diaries 2015, have been sold - three times the average number for a first novel.

It also picked up a place on last year's Costa Book Awards shortlist in the process.


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The book's success means that Saci, 42, can now work part-time at the college in Prince Regent Lane, Plaistow.

A sequel is released this month.

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It has been a hard slog for the media animation and design teacher who was working full time while writing the books.

She told the Recorder: "I did it for a few years. I had to get up early and work weekends. I don't know how I did it. I couldn't do it now."

The popularity of the book sparked a bidding war over the TV rights that saw Company Pictures, the makers of Skins and Shameless, chosen over Mr Depp's production business Infinitum Nihil.

"I wanted to make it very British", said Saci about the project that Company Pictures are talking to the BBC about.

"I'll have a little bit of a role but once you let it go, you have to let it go. You have to accept it won't be the same thing at all. It is someone else's work."

She did not rule out, however, selling the film rights or for an American series, so Mr Depp may get a second chance with Saci yet.

The book centres on 16-year-old Laura Brown, who lives in an age where carbon emissions are rationed. She dreams of becoming a rock star with her band, Dirty Angels.

Saci looked to the past to find inspiration for her future world.

She drew on the experiences of people who experienced rationing during World War II, when she said, there was more of a community spirit and everyone started to act as if the restrictions were normal.

For the second book, much of the action is centred around the ExCeL centre in Custom House and Canning Town, which by 2017 is completely flooded. People are fighting over space on the higher ground.

It is more radical and political and examines what happens when society becomes more polarised.

None of the characters want to live on the carbon rations but they have to - something Saci believes we have to do now.

"I am totally trying to be preachy," she says. "It is looking at the social aspect a lot and what it means to society."

"I think I have definitely moved so far to the left that I don't recognise myself any more. I genuinely think modern life is insane.

"I would like to see a shift in the values of society. I do think of myself as a political writer. I am interested in setting out revolution, transformation and change."

"I write about now and clothe it in the future," she added.

"Laura is not all preachy and perfect. By the end of the first book, she just wants her old life back. She's just real."

And Laura's reluctance to embrace this brave new green world is something she picked up during her eight years teaching at the sixth form college.

"It is a really exciting college with very vibrant media and arts. It is informing a lot of my work."

But, while she loved working with the students, she thought generally they were passive and the culture of getting into politics was gone.

"The environment movement is either apocalyptic or boring. It makes them want to shut them out and go on Facebook.

"I am interested in exciting, fabulous, glamorous characters, who people can hook on to and live their lives like that."

But her students haven't read the books. Saci says they are more interested in the film and TV side of things.

So much so, she is preparing to launch a new social networking website next month, developed by her students and those from other colleges.

And instead of carrying on the tales of Laura Brown, Saci is planning on going in a different direction with her next book.

It will also be set in a future where the capital has become a series of "favelas" or slums, thanks to climate change, and cultural shifts mean that Oxford Street has been transformed into a Chinese market.

But she is not ruling out a return for rock chick Laura Brown and is toying with the idea of doing another one set far off in the future when Laura is aged 70.

At the moment, with a UK-wide book tour in the offing, including a signing at Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, Stratford, on February 10 and despite her hectic schedule, Saci has no plans to give up her job at the college.

"I love teaching," she says.

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