Here are some of the questions I often get asked, and the answers
- When did you start to write?
- I'm a late developer; I started only when I was 26. All the other writers
I know began sensibly, when they were children. If you are thinking of
being a writer, however old or young you are, start now!
- Why do you write for children?
- When I began to write, I was living at home with a baby, and missing
the children I had been teaching. I didn't feel very grown-up, and I realised
I knew a lot about what my second formers had liked to read, and what they
had not liked. I thought I might manage a story to please them. By the
time I found out how hard it is to write a good story simply and well enough,
I had grown very interested. I'm still trying to do it well, and I'm still
- How long does it take to write a book?
- It varies a lot, depending on what the book is about. Some stories
only need thinking about, some need travel to far off places, or lots of
work in libraries. The longest time I've ever taken was three years, for
The Emperor's Winding Sheet, because I had to learn Greek
to read about the background. The shortest time I have ever taken was for
the picture book, Babylon; I had been thinking about that for some time,
but it got written down one Sunday afternoon. The average time is about
- Where do you get your ideas from?
- All over the place! But I don't try to think up books starting from
nothing. I keep a notebook, that I take with me everywhere, and I scribble
things down in it - observations, and descriptions and conversations and
thoughts. If ever I need an idea I can go lucky-dipping in my notebook.
Keeping a notebook is easy, and fun; you could do it too. But don't leave
it lying around for anyone to read; that can be risky!
- Do you put real people in your books?
- I hope the people in my books are real to you. They are real to me.
Sometimes I seem to be able to hear them talking in my head. I don't make
up what they say; I just listen and write it down. But they aren't portraits
of people that I know in real life. You can't put actual people into books,
because you don't know enough about them.
- What would you want to be if you weren't a writer?
- A writer is the only thing I would want to be. If I hadn't managed
to become a published writer, I would have been a dejected, unpublished
one. But there are other things I like to do - like patchwork, and photography,
and seeing new places and old friends.
Is there something else you would like to ask?
Send me an e-mail
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