What was it like for you growing up ,what inspired you and when did you first find out that you were interested in writing stories?
Most people have wonderful memories of their childhood. I don’t. Sadly, I arrived at twenty-one with more hang-ups that a nightclub cloakroom full of coathangers.
I guess in my time film stars were our heroes, and for me it was the musical stars that I loved – Fred Astairs and Gene Kelly in particular. Of course, I desperately wanted to be a tap dancer. I finally fulfilled my dream, but not until I was in my forties. And I wasn’t that good so I didn’t exactly lose out on a career.
I never thought about writing only about escaping from my dull life. Eventually I did just that, high-tailing it to Barbados. That’s where I really started to write; I was paid £25 for my very first magazine article – I was so thrilled. And my first children’s story A Fishy Tail (incidentally, this will be out in 2012) is about Barbados.
Can you tell me one thing about yourself that people might not already know?
Besides getting tear gassed at the test match in Jamaica in 1968 – the worst thing by far was sailing a Morgan 41, between Grenada and St Vincent, on my own in a gale with waves that looked 30 feet high to me, while the captain caught up with his sleep. Not a clue what I was doing, I’d never set foot on a yacht before; desperately seasick and with agonising sunburn. That’s when I spotted a shoal of playful pilot whales off the port-bow that thought I was one of them – accompanied by a rather large shark busily sharpening its teeth.
What preparation do you do before you start writing a book and what do you think the keys things are when writing a good book?
Preparing to write a book, reminds me of the old-fashioned way of making tea. You leave the tea to brew in the pot for a few minutes before pouring it out. Same with a story, it goes round and round my head for ages before I start planning it on paper.
If you look at the today’s books, it’s always an unusual theme that catches the public’s imagination. But the key to writing a book – it’s planning and lots of it.
Strangely, when I go into schools to talk about creative writing, it’s the one thing that students hate doing; moaning that it’s a waste of time and so boring, and all they want to do is get their ideas down on paper. I sympathise but you still need a plan.
What are your favourite books ,who for you has been the best story book character ever made and which authors inspire you?
Adult literature, probably my favourite character is Scarlet O’Hara from Gone with the Wind – but there are so many, it’s impossible to choose.
My favourite teens book has to be, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. And logically, my favourite character is Bartimaeus the djinni. He’s hilariously funny. Oh, if only I could write like that - its fabulous.
I love the classical authors too – Charles Dickens, Hemingway, Daphne de Maurier, Fitzgerald,
Dodie Smith, Harper Lee. Unfortunately my bookcase extends into the attic. It’s either that or buy a bigger house.
What hobbies do you have and what other things do you like to do in your spare time?
Er … hobbies? I’m a workaholic and you know what they say about all work and no play … In my defence I’ve got booksignings and school events all the way to Christmas and I have at least three books I want to write. Occasionally, though, I can be found on the golf course.
Can you tell us about your latest book and what are the main reasons why people should read it?
Originally I thought Time Breaking was simply a girls’ book and was surprised when the author, Martin Naylor, enjoyed reading it. There are three levels to the story; a troubled teenager at war with her parents; the romance between Molly and Richard; and the historical aspect. In the book, Molly slips back in time to 1648 – belonging to a family of puritans at the end of the Civil War between the Roundheads and Royalists.
What is the best chracter or plot you have ever thought of and is there any ideas you have rejected which you wish ud have used?
I still think the best character I’ve created is Sean Terry from Running – my teens thriller. Why? Because he was unplanned and literally walked onto the page. As any writer will tell you, that occasionally happens. It actually happened twice in Running.
Ideas that I have rejected – they form a list as long as my arm. You always hang on to them though because they might come in useful in another book.
If one of your books was made into a film or TV programme how would you approach it ?
I thought the screenplay for Harry Potter excellent – on the other hand, the screenplay for Twilight was dire. Is that the author’s fault for not insisting on overseeing the script or the screenwriter’s fault for not understanding the book? Catch twenty-two. If you wield a lot of clout you can have things your own way. If you don’t, you are so overwhelmed at the idea of a film being made of your book that you let the film makers have their own way. I guess I would slot into the latter group!
Can you tell us about any ideas you have for future work?
At the moment, it’s the sequel to Running. I always intended there to be a second book and I’m about half-way through. Should be out next year. I’m also half-way through Kidnap, the story of five kids – all of them spoiled brats from very wealthy families. The title tells it all.
What are you main reasons for writing books?
Escapism – pure and simple. I find my own life DULL. Writing stories lets me peep into wonderful imaginary worlds.
For anyone thinking about going into writing what advice would you give them?
Don’t be in a hurry. As Ernest Hemingway said: “Live a little before putting pen to paper.”
What would you like to say to the people who have either bought your books or are thinking about it?
Does a million thanks cover it? Not really! Without the reading public, I wouldn’t have received such support from Waterstones and my other books wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Thanks to them, I’ve a chance to get my name widely known. And to anyone thinking about trying Running or Time Breaking – don’t hesitate – go for it.
It’s a sad, sad world that books can be brilliant and still languish on the shelf unread, simply because the publishers haven’t thrown massive amounts of money into promotion or the name of the author lands it on the bottom shelf. There are some brilliant stories lurking there.
Barbara Spencer comes next to Darren Shan – not a chance of being noticed there.
If I could do it all again, I would be Agatha Arbuthnot. Then you are guaranteed a top shelf position.
If you had to desciribe yourself and your writing style to someone reading this who didn’t already know you , what would you say?
A bit different – but then all authors say that. But in my case, it’s true. I am not one of those authors that can write ten books in the same style. In my books, it’s the characters that dictate the style. My daughter always said I was quirky.
What are you upto at the moment and whats next for you?
As soon as I finish the sequel to Running and Kidnap, I want to write another thriller but I am also planning a series of children’s books with drawings. Loads of kids nowadays find too much text a real turn-off. That’s why all ages are reading, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and parents are always asking me for books with pictures in them. (Did I say I played golf in my spare time – in my dreams!)
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
Change my name.
You are viewing the text version of this site.
Need help? check the requirements page.