The Author Hotline
being developed by CW4K, or Creative Writing 4 Kids. They are the company behind a website that enables children to create and publish their own stories online. In its first year it has signed up over 2000 members and has been enthusiastically received by children, parents and teachers. In fact the response has been so encouraging that they are planning a huge expansion of its services. Embedding The Author Hotline into the site is part of that expansion...
For more information on CW4K CLICK HERE
Q: What is your favourite word?
Q: What are you afraid of?
I'm not going to answer that! You might post one through my letterbox!
Q: When did you last have a really good laugh?
Ten minutes ago
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
Not counting my dog, a bracelet that belonged to my mother.
Q: What do you do as a hobby?
I like making things.
Q: What’s your favourite food?
Italian in summer - olives, tomatoes, rocket, pasta. English in winter - cosy things like shepherd's pie and crumble. But nothing beats a good roast beef with all the trimmings - potatoes and Yorkshire pud! YUM!
Q: What do you day dream about?
White beaches, turquoise water and palm trees.
Q: What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?
Ah, now that I cannot say. They're still looking for me. If I told you, I'd have to kill you!
Q: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Attempt is right - I think winning The Ladies (tennis) Championship at Wimbledon would be amazing.
Q: Do you feel younger or older than your current age?
That depends on the day...
Q: If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Tough call. It's between The Roman general, Mark Antony, who I wrote about in Mortal Gods- and Crazy Horse, the hero of Iron Horses. Both were fabulous horsemen and fantastic leaders who inspired their men. If I had a bullet to my head... Mmmm... I think I'd choose Crazy Horse....
Q: What would you most like to change about yourself?
How much space do I have?
Q: What quality do you most admire in a person?
Q: What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
Ooh. Tough question. I'm lucky to have been to many interesting places. The most different was The Okavango Delta in Botswana. It's a flood plain in southern Africa. It's very hard to reach and very isolated, so the wildlife isn't shy - lions and hyenas come right up to you, and elephants and monkeys stroll through camp.
Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Don't smoke cigarettes. They are very hard to quit, very bad for you and very expensive.
Q: What has life taught you?
Never give up. It was my father's motto, and he was absolutely right.
Q: What were you like at school?
Cleverer than I admitted. I took the middle ground...made friends with everyone...the bullies and the bright ones...
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
It's funny, but I don't remember having any strong feelings.
Q: Which three words describe you best?
Headstrong, creative, honest.
Q: What makes you cringe?
(Some of) the British abroad, and (some of) the Americans abroad. I mean the ones who wear socks with sandals and shorts, and then shout at the tops of their voices.
Q: What strange habits do you have?
I cannot live without Bath Oil. Only oil - not bubbles - bubbles get cold.
Q: How long have you been a writer?
I used to write stories as a child and all of my adult jobs have involved writing of some sort. I started my first book, Storm Dogs, about ten years ago but couldn't write it properly until three years ago because I was working full time.
Q: Was there a specific moment in your life when you decide to become a writer?
It was probably when a friend of mine read Storm Dogs in its very early stages. He loved the idea and encouraged me to keep going.
Q: Where do you do your writing?
At home on my dining room table or occasionally on a friend's table, if I need a change of scene.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being an author?
The best is when I meet or hear from a reader who loves my books. The worst is frustration. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to say but can't find the words. Writing is also very solitary, but I don't really mind that.
Q: Where do you get your greatest ideas from?
I write about real-life historical characters - so from history, initially. Then, when I start researching the books, I always find a 'fact' that spins-off into something else. Cassius the lion is a very important character in Mortal Gods. He came about because I read that Julius Caesar had a chariot pulled by lions, so I put that in, and then made one of the lions into Caesar's pet. That pet became Cassius. The same thing happened in Iron Horses. Wolves were common in those days, and so were animal traps, so a wolf who'd been caught in a trap was an obvious hero....
Q: Which of your own characters do you most identify with?
Another tough question. I write about people who really existed, and I get to know them very well through research and reading lots about them. So far, the main subjects of my books have been people who were extraordinary human beings, but who were misunderstood in their own time and have (mostly) been badly portrayed in history. I tend to fall in love with them, but since most had terrible ends, I also spend quite a lot of time in tears! As to whom I most identify with - I think they would probably be, in reverse order: At Number Three! Queen Henrietta Maria from Storm Dogs. An adoring wife and mother, a protective tigress. At Number Two! Cleopatra from Mortal Gods. A fun-loving, powerful politician. At Number One! Buffalo Rabbit from Iron Horses. A stranger adapting to a mysterious world.
Q: What do you do to combat “writers’ block”?
I stop writing and do something different. I might clean the house or do some gardening or, if I'm really fed up with it all, I'll leave the house and visit a friend.
Q: What was your favourite book as a child?
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Q: What book do you wish you had written?
Harry Potter for the money. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for the writing. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett for the plot. The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, for all of the above, plus the movies.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep at it but don't rush. It's good to put a story away and forget about it for a while. You'll see it with completely fresh eyes when you look at it again. Also, listen to criticism. You don't have to do anything about it if you disagree, but you should take it on board.