How many books have you have published?
I am not sure. Too lazy to count! Maybe a hundred?
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes! All the time.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first book was published when I was sixteen. It was called DANCE FOR TWO. (I wanted
to call it CASTANETS AND BALLET SHOES, but I learnt very early on that authors can't
always do what they want to do!)
What was your first book about?
It was about a girl who was desperate to learn ballet, but her mum says they can't afford
it. That girl was me! Ballet was one of my greatest passions when I was young, and I did so
much want to have lessons. Nobody can know how envious I was of all those girls at school
who used to "do ballet" and come into school carrying their pink satin shoes ... even today it
is one of my greatest regrets of my life that I was never allowed to have ballet lessons, which
is probably the reason that I have written several books about dancers and dancing.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes, but I was blissfully unaware of it. My father had my aunt type the book out (it was
originally written in a variety of different-coloured inks in school exercise books) and
without telling me he sent a copy to a literary agent, who agreed to try and place it. She had
to show it to no fewer than thirteen publishers before finally number thirteen accepted it for
publication. The first I knew was when my agent wrote with the good news, which meant I had
all the excitement without any of the anxiety!
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
How can I possibly choose just one? I could say ... LITTLE WOMEN. Or I could say ... A LITTLE PRINCESS. Or I could say ... WINNIE THE POOH. Or I CAPTURE THE CASTLE. Or the WILLIAM books. Or anything by Geoffrey Trease, or - any of a dozen others!
How long does it take you to write a book?
A book the length, of, say, SKINNY MELON AND ME, probably only takes a couple of months to write, but I could well spend a year or even longer dreaming it up - plotting it, planning it, making notes, getting to know the characters. I almost do a first draft in my head before ever putting pen to paper.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I always write first drafts by hand, sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by cats and dogs. To write at a computer would be too much like working in an office. (But I always do letters straight on to the computer! Couldn't write a letter by hand to save my life.)
Do you have a writing routine?
I don't have a set routine, but tend to follow the same pattern of writing all morning, putting work on to computer in the afternoon, then printing out a copy and reading it through in the bath (which is why many of my first drafts tend to be waterlogged ... )
How do you get your ideas?
Like most writers, I get them from all over. Things I see, things I hear, things people tell me. Things which interest or concern me. Things I dream up. Things I read in other people's books. Things which just pop into my head from seemingly nowhere. And, of course, things which happened to me when I was young.
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No, alas, I cannot draw! But I'm very lucky as I have the same excellent illustrator for all my Harper Collins books - Karen Donnelly, whose drawings are funny and friendly, which is what I hope my books are.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Basically, try to become as a child. Think as a child thinks. See through a child's eyes. Experience a child's feelings. Keep the adult part of yourself in the background - whilst always making sure that you keep a tight hold on the reins. In other words, let the child in you do the speaking while the adult shapes the words.
What would you do if you weren't a writer?
Once upon a time I would have said, "Be a ballet dancer!" But it is a bit too late for that now, so I suppose I would do some kind of work which involved helping animals.
The above are just some of the questions which I am most often asked. If there is anything else you would like to know, please feel free to write to me. My Contacts Page will tell you how to get in touch.
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