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 were you like at school?
A total swot, into drama and history, always reading or drawing or doing plays and skits. I loved words and I loved learning. Still do! I was also quite a good runner, but the only team game I liked was hockey.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
Everything. It always seemed daft to me that you have to decide to be one thing and do it forever, so I wanted to do everything that came my way. I gave up on being a ballerina early on, and I now accept that I'm unlikely to be an astronaut or musician, but all other options are still open.
Q: Which three words describe you best?
Chatty, enthusiastic and energetic. I wish it was clever and smoulderingly gorgeous, but there you go.
Q: What is your favourite word?
Joy. Amazement runs it a pretty close second, though.
Q: What makes you cringe?
People being horrible to other people in public. Even the prettiest person looks ugly when they're being horrible.
Q: What are you afraid of?
Large hungry animals on the loose. I can't run as fast as I could when I was at school!
Q: When did you last have a really good laugh?
About ten minutes ago, on the phone to my mate Derek.
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
There are lots of things I like, but the greatest treasures I've ever been given are my brain and my heart.
Q: What do you do as a hobby?
Cook, travel and wonder.
Q: What strange habits do you have?
I wander off the point a lot. You can start a conversation with me about bus tickets or custard and end up on Tibet or arthropods. I also talk to strange people. I know it's very un-British to talk to anyone without a formal introduction, but I don't think one ever has enough strange people in one's life.
Q: What’s your favourite food?
Q: What do you day dream about?
Chocolate and selling my novels.
Q: What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?
I can't tell you unless you have a maximum security clearance and the key to the Vatican library. Apart from that, I once got a couple of people really wound up by feeding the mice on the Tube.
Q: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Q: Do you feel younger or older than your current age?
Neither. I feel exactly like me. Always have!
Q: If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
A mediaeval French poet called Francois Villon. Nobody knows what happened to him, but he was a bit of a wild lad, so I bet it was interesting.
Q: What quality do you most admire in a person?
Being willing to give it a chance. Too many people shut off all kinds of possibilities because they won't give ideas, or things, or people, a chance. Give something a fair hearing and who knows what could happen?
Q: What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
Japan. It was love from the moment my feet hit the airport floor. There are so many layers to Japan, you could spend your whole life exploring them.
Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself you can be. Anything less is a waste of your time.
Q: What would you most like to change about yourself?
I'd like to be able to finish one project before starting another. I always have too many things on the go, but when I see something interesting I've just got to have a closer look! And I'd like to be a financial genius, because that would make life so much easier.
Q: What has life taught you?
That you only get to do this once, so you might as well enjoy it!
Q: How long have you been a writer?
Ever since I could write, and I told stories before that. But I started writing professionally in 1991, and kept working fulltime as well until 2006.
Q: Was there a specific moment in your life when you decide to become a writer?
Not that I remember. I come from an Irish family, and everyone told stories. It was just one of the things I always knew I was going to do.
Q: Where do you do your writing?
Anywhere, because I always have a notebook and a pen with me. But my usual place is at my desk in the study at home. There are two windows. In front of me is a north facing bay window with the sill cluttered up with all kinds of interesting stuff - a bronze samurai helmet, a carved dragon, a crystal skull, a big green scarab, a bit of driftwood, some shells. Beyond that is a little courtyard with a tall fence that the squirrels use as a walkway. On my left is a west-facing window that would have a terrific view of Canary Wharf if only the garage were transparent. Behind me is a very cluttered room with tons of books and toys, and the door into the kitchen where I make frequent cups of tea and hide my chocolate stash in the fridge. In front of me is my beloved Apple Mac, a computer so elegant it deserves a much more minimalist setting.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being an author?
The best is that you can do anything you want. If you can think it, you can write it. The worst is that a lot of the time, nobody wants to read what you've written, or they read it and don't like it. Lots of very, very good writers are not successful. You have to love what you do so much that you can't stop doing it.
Q: Where do you get your greatest ideas from?
All over the place. I watch people, I read a lot, I look at pictures and listen to music. There are all kinds of stories floating round in the air just waiting to be captured. Sometimes it's realising that nobody else has written the book you want to read! That's happened to me twice - I went to the library to find a book, found it didn't exist and wrote it.
Q: Which of your own characters do you most identify with?
All of them. I think you have to inhabit the skin of anyone you write about, as far as you can. It's the same whether you write fiction or non-fiction - to make something or someone live for a reader, you have to be able to enter its life yourself.
Q: What do you do to combat “writers’ block”?
I don't often get writers' block. I can't afford it! But on the odd occasions when I get stuck with a bit of writing, I go for a walk or do some pottering in the garden if it's not too cold and wet. If it is, I listen to music or do some designing. I might do some embroidery. I need to do something that occupies a different bit of my brain, and preferably involves walking or doing something with my hands. That seems to make space for the writing to flow again.
Q: What was your favourite book as a child?
When I was very young, I absolutely loved a big old book of poetry that my grandmother used to read from. As I got older, I loved adventures and animal - at six 'Black Beauty' was my favourite book of all time. When I was about eight I started read Rosemary Sutcliff and she became my favourite historical novelist. I still love her work and constantly learn from it. A couple of years later I found Georgette Heyer and just loved her books. I was lucky to grow up in a home where books were respected and loved and enjoyed, and to have a public library nearby. I think public libraries are one of our greatest national treasures. Just wandering along the shelves, picking up books at random and dipping in, introduced me to so many new authors.
Q: What book do you wish you had written?
The next one I'm going to write!
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
1) Write something every day, whatever happens, and keep on writing. Never give up. 2) Don't worry if other people don't like your work. Take on board any sensible comments, like "It sometimes helps if you spell the same way as everyone else" or "I can't read this because the type is too small", or "J.K. Rowling already wrote Harry Potter, publish the exact same thing with the names changed and you might get sued." But otherwise, remember that people have different tastes and ideas and your work won't please everyone. 3) Don't expect to get rich. If it happens, you're one of the lucky few and well done. but don't give up the day job until it does. You need to eat as much as you need to write.
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