Teacher turns page in writing career with national prize
(JB) An English teacher at the European School of Luxembourg has described his joy at winning first prize in the national literary competition.
James Leader finished his anti-capitalist, road trip novel, “The Venus Zone”, just a few days before the competition deadline in July after working on it for years.
“It's a real vindication because it's very difficult to prove to people that what you're doing is a worthwhile way of spending your time. It's nice to have some official recognition,” the novelist and poet told Wort.lu/en.
The novel for young readers tackles the pitfalls of capitalism, focusing on the wealthy CEO of a major mining firm, Paul. The CEO is kidnapped by his anti-capitalist and ex-philosophy professor brother, Henry, and 17-year-old niece, Venus.
The attractive Venus poses as a prostitute to lure in the CEO, who the pair then frame, following the firm's AGM.
The pair then take Paul on a road trip to Luxembourg to steal secrets from one of the company's subsidiaries. The entire story is told through the eyes of Venus' second-cousin, Thibault, who falls for the charms of the pretty young activist.
To research the book, James said he purchased shares in a mining firm and attended their AGM in London. “It was an amazing 1.5 hours of being in a completely different world. I noted down what they were writing. The language was fantastic. A lot of that is in Chapter 2,” he said.
Leader said he was surprised that the novel had won over the jury, given that it is critical of countries like Luxembourg, which provide bases for companies to “hollow out the tax base of third world countries.”
Originally from Canterbury in the UK, James Leader came to Luxembourg with his wife in 2000 after spending four years teaching in the US. He took two years off teaching from 2009 to focus on novel-writing and travel.
“The Venus Zone”, for 16 to 18-year-olds, is the third novel written by the teacher during the last six years. His first was “Chickendance”, a novel for 14-year-olds about a teenager's visit to the D-Day beaches with his grandfather, which was published in 2009.
His second novel, “The Mysteries of Gogos”, came out in 2011 and is used as a baccalaureat text book at a school in Belgium. Both are available on Amazon's print-to-order platform.
This is not the first time that the writer has received recognition in a major competition. He won second prize for a short story entered in the same contest in Luxembourg three years ago, meanwhile, last year he came second in the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, one of the biggest contests in the world.
His prize in the Luxembourg competition includes 5,000 euros and a 1,000-euro budget for a promotional tour in the Greater Region if the book is published within 18 months.
Leader said that he was a poet long before becoming a novelist and he now plans to focus on publishing a collection of poetry written over the past 30 years, while also seeking a publisher for “The Venus Zone”.
He also intends to enter next year's national literary competition, the theme for which is short story compilations.
“I think it's really wonderful that Luxembourg ministry does this competition. I heartfelt feel it's fantastic they support writers like that,” he said.