WHEN Holly Smale was a teenager she immersed herself in novels as a means of escape.

The author of the hugely popular Geek Girl series, who will be at Penketh Library on Wednesday, was bullied at school and said that books like Anne of Green Gables saved her teenage years.

But Holly's experience has now gone full circle as her young adult novels are helping schoolgirls cope with the pressures of growing up all over the country.

Geek Girl was the bestselling young adult fiction title in the UK in 2013 and won the teen and young adult category of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Holly, who based her character 15-year-old Harriet Manners partly on herself, said: "When I was a teenage girl I was very much on the outside.

"I was lonely and didn’t feel like I fitted in so it’s been an amazing experience to realise that so many children understand, connect with what I went through and empathise.

"It makes you realise how many people must be going through similar things.

"I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t turn to my parents or a teacher and I tried to deal with it on my own and I dealt with it quite badly.

"It had a massive effect on my confidence and how I felt about myself and what I was capable and by the time I was 14 or 15 I was a crumbled mess basically."

Holly faced labels like 'ugly', 'boring', 'weirdo' and 'loser' on a daily basis and there is a scene in her book where everyone puts their hands up to say they hate Harriet on her first day of school. That actually happened to Holly.

"I remember I cried when I wrote that scene," said the 33-year-old.

"I hadn’t told anyone about that. For me it was painful to write a scene that is so excruciating and was so word-for-word true.

"Although the story isn’t autobiographical it’s based on a kid quite like how I was. So even if an event hasn’t happened to me I’ll know how Harriet feels

"It’s been incredibly cathartic because getting it out there and for people to say similar things have happened to them has made me not feel so alone anymore."

Holly took solace in books.

She added: "My inability to connect with people as opposed to literature was probably one of the reasons I was so geeky and why I was picked on.

"But my love for books just became more and more intense because they didn’t hurt me and didn’t call me names.

"I survived pretty much by reading. I took books to school with me and read in the changing rooms and when I got home.

"In a way it was unhealthy because I was basically hiding from what was happening in my real life.

"It was escapism because I could be anyone and anywhere and doing anything other than what I was doing in my real life.

"But I think it was more than that. I think there were some characters I related to in books.

"For me it was Anne of Green Gables who when I was 12 or 13 became my soul mate. I read it about 14 times.

"What she went through and how she felt and how she reacted gave me the confidence that there were other people like me somewhere.

"I couldn’t find them at school but I found them in a book so they had to exist. Books completely saved my teenage years so it’s amazing now that I’m writing books that potentially could be doing the same thing for some people.

"So when I get messages from girls saying ‘I’m finding it easier at school because of Harriet’ or ‘when I’m stuck in a horrible situation I think what would Harriet do’ it’s a really incredible feeling because I’ve basically passed that on other kids."

Holly dreamed of being an author since she was five but she only had the confidence to start writing at the end of 2008.

She left her job in PR in London and was working as an English teacher in Japan when the story began to take shape and school memories came flooding back.

Holly said: "It’s the most difficult time of your life when you’re trying to figure out what you’re about at the same time as being told so many things by so many different people.

"I guess that’s what the books are about – trying to find your own identity when everything else is happening around you."

- Holly Smale will be reading an excerpt from All That Glitters, the fourth novel in the Geek Girl series, followed by a Q and A and signing session at Penketh Library on Wednesday at 4pm