A FORMER Weymouth teacher has hit the big time after signing a six-figure book deal with publisher Orion.

Kirsten Espensen, who taught at St Andrews School and Westfield Technology College, secured the lucrative agreement for her Stone-wylde novels.

It means that the first three Stonewylde novels will be re-printed in February, April and June next year, with the final two volumes going on sale from August 2011.

Negotiations are also taking place to sell the film rights.

Kirsten, who is better known to her readers under her pen name of Kit Berry, is working on the screenplay and said her dream would be for Johnny Depp to play the lead role of Magus.

She said: “It’s been tough bringing up three children, having a full-time job and writing, but I feel like I’m living proof that dreams really can come true.”

Kirsten moved to Dorset in 1980 to study for her English and media studies degree at the former Dorset Institute of Higher Education, now Weymouth College, and later took a teaching degree with the Open University.

She then began teaching at St Andrews and a few years later moved to Westfield Technology College to teach children with special needs.

Whilst there she attended a course, Reconnecting Children With Nature, which gave her the idea for her book.

She started writing in 2003 and 2004 while she was still teaching full time and bringing up three sons on her own.

She moved to the Reading area in 2005 where she now lives.

Kirsten said: “My husband needs to be near Reading for his work, otherwise I’d still be in Dorset, but I do hope to return.”

She also told how parts of Dorset – including Sutton Poyntz, Abbotsbury, Purbeck and the Ridgeway – inspired the fictional estate in her book.

Charborough Park, home of Richard Drax MP, and the great wall that surrounds it inspired the idea of an enclosed community within the book.

For the past three years, Kirsten has been running her publishing company as well as touring the country, providing talks, workshops and doing book signings.

On October 16 she will be the opening speaker at the Charmouth Literary Festival.

A website, www.stonewylde. com and a social networking webpage were created to cope with the many fans throughout the world.