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?
I was a complete daydreamer at school. I passed all my exams but I only ever worked hard enough to get a B. Any attempt to achieve an A would have resulted in losing out on some sporting or social time, so I decided that a B was the best use of my time. In hindsight, this was not a very sensible approach as studying a little more for a short time would have delivered better results that would have helped me throughout life. We live and learn! I still have nightmares to this day about not having done my revision (genuinely!!). I was sociable at school and loved all sports. I worked hard for teachers I liked and didn't work at all for those I didn't. Again, this was foolish as the only person to lose out was me. I enjoyed school a great deal, had lots of good friends and a great deal of fun. However, I do not believe that school days are the best days of your life - far from it. The big wide world is way better.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
Generally, I didn't have a clue. I didn't understand enough about what jobs were out there – things like graphic designers, jobs related to agriculture, why engineering was useful for most lines of work and so on. If I wanted to do anything it was to be a PE teacher but in general, I had absolutely no idea of the world around me in terms of future work, aside from the fact that I knew I had to work.
Q: Which three words describe you best?
tactless (so people tell me!), poor memory, happy.
Q: What is your favourite word?
Q: What makes you cringe?
Thinking back on some of the experiences of my youth at times makes me cringe. However, it's the good things, the bad things and the things that make you cringe that make you who you are today and if you have been a goodie-two-shoes all your life, then you won't be able to relate to the world at large.
Q: What are you afraid of?
Spiders, cockroaches and anything that crawls, especially in Australia where they can also kill you! However, I can manage the situation with a large glass and a piece of paper to put them outside. I don't like them but I don't like killing them. On a dark night, on my own, I am also mildly afraid of ghosts, which I know sounds utterly weird for an adult.
Q: When did you last have a really good laugh?
I laugh all the time. The best laughs are normally when I'm hanging out with my old friends or laughing at something when I shouldn't be.
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
My kids, my family, my friends (if you can call them possessions?). Otherwise, my shell necklace.
Q: What do you do as a hobby?
I windsurf, surf (badly), sail, ski, snowboard, teach kids hockey, go running and play the violin.
Q: What strange habits do you have?
I used to suck my thumb when watching TV until well into my 20's. Terrible and simple looking. Thankfully I'm over that now.
Q: What’s your favourite food?
Too hard to say. I like variation. I've always enjoyed variation and change in life.
Q: What do you day dream about?
I am a terrible daydreamer! This makes me useless company on a long car journey as I stare out the window, lost in thought. I dream about what my kids might be like when they are older, my books, my work, my previous boyfriends of my youth, windsurfing, what my plans are for the future. Anything. I can spend hours day-dreaming!
Q: What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?
Now then. Most of that is classified. I've done the world's highest bungee in South Africa, cycled off a pier in Australia with a bicycle we found in the dump, pretty much managed a forward loop on my windsurfer, without killing myself, before I turned 40 and done a mooney in Times Square for a treasure hunt competition.
Q: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I'm happy with my lot. I work on the farm, charter boats and write books. I have lots of variety in my work and my favourite job is writing the books.
Q: Do you feel younger or older than your current age?
I feel much, much younger than my age but I know that the children think of me as very old because when I was in my late teens, I remember thinking 20 was old and 30 was ancient. It's the cycle of life I guess. Some of us never grow up. It's important to take responsibility as you get older but you don't really need to grow up totally!
Q: If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
My friend Pete.
Q: What quality do you most admire in a person?
Q: What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
I love the Highlands of Scotland – the wildness and rugged landscape, the feeling of a place steeped in history, the outstanding views and feeling of freedom in the hills and by the sea. Aside from that, interesting is hard to define. South Africa was interesting because I couldn't believe that such a beautiful country could have so much hatred and violence; Australia is interesting with beautiful cities built largely by the convicts of the past and vast stretches of pretty much desert in between; the standing stones are interesting on Lewis because, Why are they there? How did they lift them? The world is interesting and everywhere you go, you wish you could take a little bit home.
Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
'The most important measure of a man is how well you get back up when you have fallen down.' This advice makes you go out and try things, get on with it. If you fail, you must pick yourself back up and move on. The worst thing you can do in life is not to try. It's ok to fail but it's not ok to give up.
Q: What would you most like to change about yourself?
My memory. I don't retain information well and am surrounded by bits of paper reminding me to do things! My lack of memory is very bad for current affairs, famous people and so on. This can be embarrassing in the world of grown-ups!
Q: What has life taught you?
To value integrity above all things, to have fun, to work hard and not to be afraid of failing, because everything we do makes us who we are. Failures are just lessons learned in the cycle of life and make you stronger for the next adventure!
Q: How long have you been a writer?
I've been writing since June 2012.
Q: Was there a specific moment in your life when you decide to become a writer?
Yes. Well, I've always had it in the back of my mind that I quite fancied writing but I didn't know what I wanted to write about and I didn't really think about it seriously. The moment came when we moved to the Highlands and the idea of the books came from a combination of factors. I knew suddenly what I was going to do and I have been writing, researching and working every spare minute since. I love it.
Q: Where do you do your writing?
I currently write in my house, in a pokey little office I share with my very messy husband (bless him, he has other qualities!). However, I am about to move to the boathouse over-looking the sea at the bottom of the garden, whenever we manage to get phone and internet sorted! That is going to be ACE with a wood-burning stove, a kettle and a beautiful view of the sea.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being an author?
The best thing is the complete freedom to make a story, design a cover, work on how to sell it. It's creative and it's business combined, and you are in charge of your own destiny. I love that freedom. It's also flexible so I can go for a run along the coast with the dog in the middle of the day and catch up on work when it gets dark into the night. The worst thing is self-doubt. Is this going to work? Surely this is too much fun to actually be considered work? Am I just playing? Do I need to go and get a proper job? Am I making a contribution to the world? And so on....
Q: Where do you get your greatest ideas from?
My ideas come from meeting people. I love meeting new people and I love chatting, parties and generally being sociable. However, I'm a bit of a strange combination in that I am also rather a loner. So for me, although it sounds rather corny, the Highlands and the scenery here give me some of the best ideas as I wander in the hills and by the sea. The Highlands are a very spiritual place, wild, untamed. They are not for everyone but for me, if I'm going to find creativity, it's here.
Q: Which of your own characters do you most identify with?
That's easy because I am 'Mother'. However, I like to think I am a little more fun than 'Mother', who is constantly trying to direct her children in the right direction and there is no time in the book to dwell on Mother's character as she is a background figure. I debated hugely about calling her 'Mum' or even 'Mom' for the Americans. In the end, the children call her "Mama' as they do at home (we used to live in Spain so it comes from there). If she is referred to in the books, it is 'Mother' as that is the proper English definition.
Q: What do you do to combat “writers’ block”?
I leave it for a while and come back to it. I have many ideas going on at the same time so I can go off and work on other things and return to the writer's block issue. In the meantime, I'll be doing lots of day-dreaming about the problem and generally come up with a solution. If none of that works, I sit down with a blank piece of paper and focus.
Q: What was your favourite book as a child?
The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. I also liked the Secret Seven.
Q: What book do you wish you had written?
I don't really look at other books and wish I had written them. Instead, I prefer to look at my own life and think about what I can do that hopefully makes a contribution. I admire JK Rowling for her incredible imagination but I wouldn't have done it better than her, so I wouldn't have wanted to write it. I love Mairi Hedderwick's illustrations but again, we need her to have written it. I think the best we can do is educate ourselves about the world around us and make our own path in life.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My best advice would be not to give up. That doesn't mean continue on blindly, and that's where the dilema lies. Listen to feedback but try to remember that the person giving you it may not be right, even if they are much more experienced. Only you can make that call. If you have a dream and you have the work ethic, then go for it and keep going. If it fails then you will have learned more than you can imagine from your experience and you will have done better than those who don't get up and try. Do not be afraid of failure and don't give up.
Joe the Fisherman What do the grown-ups do?
Papa the Stock farmer What do the grown-ups do?
Sean the Actor What do the grown-ups do?
Fiona the Doctor What do the grown-ups do?
Richard the Vet What do the grown-ups do?