Authors Hotline - Where authors and their readers connect
CW4K

The Author Hotline

is 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?

snap

I think I was well-behaved at junior school, but less so in some lessons at secondary school. My favourite subjects were always Art and English. I was quite good at hockey and athletics but hopeless at PE. I dreaded Thursday afternoons in my first year at secondary school because we had PE followed by Double Biology with a teacher who was very sarcastic.

Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?

snap

At first I wanted to be a fashion designer and then a journalist; I actually worked as a reporter on the local newspaper as a holiday job. But after university I trained to be a teacher. I taught English for several years before changing careers and becoming a social worker, and then a family therapist. It was a long time before I achieved my ambition of being a writer - not a journalist, but a children's writer.

Q: What makes you cringe?

snap

People who are pretentious.

Q: What are you afraid of?

snap

Flying, but I try not to let the fear stop me doing it. So I have flown to Australia - twice.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

snap

I am a great hoarder so it's really difficult to choose the most treasured possession - I have so many! But I think I would say my collection of photographs - of people and places I love.

Q: What do you do as a hobby?

snap

I read; see friends (very important); go to exercise classes; visit stately homes, gardens, museums and art-galleries; do a bit of gentle gardening; play the piano (a little and not very well); watch TV; listen to Radio 4; research my family history. My current ambition is to add drawing to that list.

Q: What’s your favourite food?

snap

I have different favourite foods at different times of day. I love breakfast for instance - orange juice, muesli with lots of fresh fruit, followed by toast and home-made marmalade and a mug of tea.

Q: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

snap

I'm very happy with what I have done so far. My work has been really interesting and I hope it's been useful.

Q: Do you feel younger or older than your current age?

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Younger.

Q: What quality do you most admire in a person?

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The ability to listen to other people with genuine interest in what they have to say.

Q: What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?

snap

It's a long time since I have been there but one of the most interesting places I have visited is the Mani, a remote region in the Southern Peloponnese, in Greece.

Q: How long have you been a writer?

snap

I've been a published children's writer since 2006. I was writing children's fiction and submitting it to agents and publishers for about eleven years before my first book was published.

Q: Was there a specific moment in your life when you decide to become a writer?

snap

As I said, it was an early ambition to be a journalist. Then I took a different direction until the ambition resurfaced as a wish to write for children.

Q: Where do you do your writing?

snap

I mostly write at my computer in my study, at the end of the garden. I often write 'in my head', while I'm doing something else - ironing, walking, driving and then later transfer the words to my computer.

Q: What are the best and worst things about being an author?

snap

One of the best things for me is when the words and ideas are really 'flowing'. I also enjoy revising and editing what I've written, making it as good as I can, finding just the right word or phrase; and also when I am able to solve a problem I've had with a particular event or character. And it's exciting when a manuscript is accepted for publication, seeing the proofs, and then the final book with its lovely cover. I am thrilled when I receive the annual figures about how many people have borrowed my books from the library. Most important of all is when readers tell me they've enjoyed reading my books. The worst things for me are having submissions returned with the message 'No, thank you. This is not for me.'

Q: Where do you get your greatest ideas from?

snap

I've been thinking hard about this question as it's one that most readers ask authors. An idea may come from a place I know. Some ideas develop from something I've read in a newspaper, or heard on the radio, and might stimulate a story about the future, or the past. I'm very interested in the lives of ordinary people, which are not necessarily recorded in history books, but which are, nevertheless, extraordinary.

Q: Which of your own characters do you most identify with?

snap

As I'm writing a story I do identify with the main character, even if he or she is not very much like me as a person.

Q: What do you do to combat “writers’ block”?

snap

I think of 'writers' block' as the times when, for example: I can't start writing at all; or reach a point in the story where I don't know what to write next; or when there's some sort of problem in the plot. I do different things: I start writing anyway, thinking this doesn't have to be the first paragraph or chapter, I can write that later; I stop trying to solve the problem and go away and do something completely different - eg ironing, gardening. And sometimes I wake up the next morning and know exactly what to write, or how to solve the problem.

Q: What was your favourite book as a child?

snap

I had many favourites. When I was very young I loved the Rupert books which my parents read to me. I was a great fan of Enid Blyton and have a postcard from her, written in her own hand. My special Blyton favourites were the Famous Five books, the Faraway Tree series and the school stories, especially Malory Towers. I also liked Malcolm Saville's Nettleford books, and children's classics such as What Katy Did, and Little Women. I loved the books by Evadne Price about an extremely naughty girl called Jane Turpin, who was a female version of Just William. These were lovely fat books, and for several years I received one every Christmas sent to me by a kind elderly lady.

Q: What book do you wish you had written?

snap

Rather like my answer about favourite books, there are so many books I wish I'd written, for different reasons. Thinking of books for adults I would say Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and The Great Gatsby, by Scott Fitzgerald - very different books in style, subject matter and length but both brilliant. And children's books - To Kill a Mockingbird - though I think it's a book for adults too.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

snap

Read a lot, and read widely. Try books that make demands on you as well as those that are easy to read. If a book engages you, think about what the writer does to achieve this. Revise, revise and revise what you've written. If you can ask a couple of other people to read it - choose people who'll be honest in a constructive way and who read a lot themselves - then re-read your manuscript with their comments in mind. You may not agree with everything they say but they may have identified a weakness and you have to work out for yourself how to address it. Then revise your manuscript again, and again. And don't give up!

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