FIRE Colour One is the first novel from award-winning Glasbury author Jenny Valentine for five years, an unintended hiatus that was one of the side-effects of being diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis that coincided with her father learning he had lung cancer, and Ernest in Fire Colour One, though not her dad, is, she says, inspired by the experience.

“This book ended up being about losing him,” she reveals. “But it didn’t start out that way.

“At his funeral I realised that I was seeing him from a 360 degree angle, seeing him in the round in a way that wasn’t possible when he was alive. I got some perspective on who he was in the world.

“My father always teased me about the fact there were no decent fathers in my books, saying – ‘what have I done to deserve this?’, so in that sense the book ended up being about him.”

An established and acclaimed name in the world of YA fiction, Jenny puts some of her success down to timing. “I wrote Finding Violet Park back at a time when Young Adult fiction was just taking off in this country." The novel, Jenny's first, won the prestigious Guardian Children’s Fiction prize in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the same year.

It was followed by the multi-nominated Broken Soup, The Ant Colony and The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight (set in Hay-on-Wye).

“In some sense I’m quite preoccupied with the fact that someone dying is not an obstacle to getting to know them. For Iris, there’s plenty more that she’s going to learn. Even though she didn’t get the chance to do it with Ernest as a witness it’s still valid.”

Iris is reunited with her father as he nears death and her mother determines to get her hands on his priceless art collection, but there is more at stake for both Ernest and Iris than the paintings as both come to terms with past, present and future.

“I’m much more interested in the emotional detail than the historical detail,” she says, adding that for her, the starting point for any book is the story, not an abstract idea, with themes arising from that story.

“For me, it’s about empathy, but not everyone wants to read about emotions, so pace is important, too. There are a lot of things for books to fight against these days, so a book needs to have momentum.”

As with her previous books, Jenny admits that she had no idea what was going to happen when she first sat down to write, and the book that she ended up writing bears little relation to where she started!

“I have found that characters will reveal themselves as you go along and, even though I’ve always written in the first person, they are all distinct from each other.

“When I read I want to feel I have worked it out for myself. By pleasing myself as I write I have the same experience as reading. ”

Fire Colour One is published today.