How do you begin to plot your books? Could you talk us through your writing process?
I tend to know how it’s going to start, and have a rough idea of how it’s going to end. Then I spend a lot of time with the characters on the back burner until I have them formed and I’d know how they might behave. I generally write a skimpy, holey version, that no-one could ever understand, with a few plot points that need to be there, and then put the flesh on it. Somehow, that gives me the pace I need. And makes writing that first draft more bearable.
What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?
For me – it’s allowing myself to be eleven again, on a daily basis. It’s like all the grown up things never happened.
Writing wasn’t your first career choice; had you always wanted to write & how did you finally make the break through to being a published author?
I’ve always been inclined to let fate show me the way. It’s meant some slightly odd life choices, but I did always write in the background. I spent years running a shop where I really wanted to be outside. Then as a gardener in the rain, I quite wanted to be inside. One day I was sitting with my son at the Bath Kids Literature Festival and I saw that one of the events was sponsored by the Bath Spa University Writing for Young People Course. I didn’t really think about it because something inside me knew I wanted to apply. Then, quite suddenly I discovered that it was a thing I really wanted to do. And I really wanted to be published, but it wasn’t easy getting from manuscript to published book. That took a brilliant agent and a lot of thick skin.
Could you tell us a little bit about your latest title “The Boy Who Flew” and how you got the inspiration for this story?
The Boy Who Flew started life ten years ago, as part of my Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University. I had been standing on the roof of a building, cleaning out a gutter and looking across the rooftops when I realised that they all connected and that if I had the nerve I could get around without touching the ground. The building I was standing on was built in 1733, and I knew that the people who had lived there were tailors, clockmakers and feather dyers. I wondered about the clockmaker, might he be an inventor? A tailor’s boy might work for him? I thought about the inventions that came fifty years later, and I thought of flight.
Finally, what can we look forward to next from you?
I’m writing a series called CLIFFTOPPERS. It’s about a group of cousins who spend holidays with their delightful but slightly careless grandparents on the Dragon Peninsula. They sail dinghies, explore caves, discover secret passages and foil crimes. They’re adventure stories for 7 – 10 year olds who need something more contemporary than Enid Blyton, but want that sense of pure adventure. The first one will be out in April and a second one in September and there are two more for twenty twenty.
The Boy Who Flew will be published by Nosy Crow on 7th March 2019.