A Very Special School Project

Today I have something very special to share.

A lovely young lady contacted me recently to see if I would do an interview for her school project: People Who Inspire Us. Of course, I said yes – what an honour!

I was sent a fantastic list of interview questions (see below) and then she put together a gorgeous display based on my Nine Lives Trilogy.

With her mum’s permission (please note: I have kept anonymity for online security), here are some photos. I regularly get asked why I write. People – THIS is what it’s all about.

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And here’s the thoughtful interview…

  1. What inspired you to write especially in your genre and who were your influences?

I think we take our influences from the world around us, so we’re always digesting stuff that adds to our creativity, without even realising. Art, film, music, people, the natural world; they all have stories to tell and these become part of our self and our understanding. I love travel and this inspires me greatly – the physicality of the journey helps free up the mind and creative thinking, and then the new sights, sounds, smells, tastes – it’s all soakage. In terms of books, Roald Dahl made me think about writing stories differently when I was a kid (they became much more gruesome) and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials really inspired me. I like fiction that’s dark, real, and emotional. But every book I read makes me think about my own work – what I like, what I don’t like, pacing, tone, etc. It’s wonderful.

  1. How do you hope your books will inspire young people and influence them?

I hope my books provide some entertainment and some escapism; but if they make young people think about different viewpoints or ask questions, then that’s also good. I don’t think stories should have a moral or a message, but if they engage readers in a way they hadn’t thought about before, then I think that’s positive. For instance, you might not agree with a character’s behaviour but you can understand why they’re acting that way – and that empathy and understanding is really special.

  1. Growing up did you always want to be a writer?

I always said I wanted to be a teacher or a poet, but in truth, I didn’t think it was possible. It was before the Internet existed, so communication with authors was much more difficult. In fact, I never heard fro or met an author despite writing a few letters, so it felt very far away from my world. I came from a very poor background and so I thought you had to be rich to be an author! But I always loved books and reading and I always wrote. Thankfully, writing feels much more accessible now.

  1. What was the best present you have ever received?

A book is my favourite gift – whether it’s fiction, non-fiction or a notebook to write in. Though my friend did give me a stuffed two-headed duckling as a leaving present and that blew me away!

  1. Could you describe a typical workday when you are teaching a workshop and what do you hope to achieve?

I do a lot of preparation for my workshops – handouts, exercises, ideas, extra reading etc so for every hour workshop, there’s at least 4 hours preparation gone into it. I think it’s really important because every writer and their work should be given the respect they deserve. I believe workshops should encourage you to be brave enough to write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. They should make writing feel accessible, they should make you feel energised and excited about your work, and they should make you want to go away and write more. I don’t subscribe to a finished piece, as often a lot of thought needs to come in between before a piece can improve, but I like to cover lots of nuts and bolts that can help start a piece, improve a piece, and polish a piece. Basically, I aim at what I want out of any workshops I attend.

  1. How do you hope a young reader will relate to Ebony Smart.

Ooh, a tough question, as we all have our own experiences and bring them with us – no two people reading the same book have the same experience, and once it’s out there, you have to let your readers own it – and that means the characters too! I think Ebony’s a brave and feisty character, so I hope that young readers respect her for that. I hope they like her, that they’re in her corner. But I also hope they see that she’s flawed like anyone we meet, because to me, that’s what makes a character real.

Isn’t this project wonderful? (Why not leave her a comment below for encouragement?!)

Best Ever Reader Feedback!

Many people ask what it’s like to be an author, and I always say that the best bit is meeting the readers. Of course I adore the writing side; coming up with an idea, beating it into shape, then fine tuning it with the help on an editor or two. But once the book is in the public sphere, I also love the social side; literary festivals, interviews, radio, events in schools/libraries/bookshops.

Although it is also slightly terrifying, nothing beats getting feedback on your book. Whether it’s a review online (see goodreads and amazon) or it’s a person in front of you, telling you their thoughts about your book, meeting people that have enjoyed your work is an incredible feeling. And so, I thought I’d share some of the feedback… (keep going to see the video at the end!)

Bronagh

Huge thanks to Bronagh for adding me in her school magazine!

And huge thanks also to the girls and boys that filled out feedback sheets after the UNESCO Citywide Read events. Here are some of the comments I’ve received so far – they make me chuckle SO MUCH I had to share!

Question: Did you enjoy the event?

‘Yes, it was a very scary story and it was good to meet the author’.

‘Yes, it was very good. It was good to meet the author. Her book was awesome’.

‘Yes, it was funny’.

‘Yes, it was the best’.

‘Yes, it was a great book and I can’t wait to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I enjoyed today so much. We enjoyed it a lot and had fun. I hope we come again soon’.

‘Yes, it was fun. She was funny’.

‘Yes, she’s so kind and happy’.

‘Yes 🙂  She likes death’.

‘Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing. I love it sooooooo much’.

‘Yes!!!! 🙂 I think she’s funny because she likes death :-p . It was a great book!!’

‘Yep!! The Book of Learning is my favourite book! I can’t wait for the second one to come out!!!

‘Yes, for sure. I hope more will be coming from her soon’.

‘Yes, it was amazing. I can’t wait for the next books. It was so good, and it was spooky. She is really nice and funny’.

‘Yes I thought it was great, I learned a lot about writing. I am going to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I liked it, I’d say 10 out of 10’.

‘Yes, so much. It was good 10/10 and I hope that we do it again J’.

‘Yes, a lot. The ghost stories are creepy and really cool’.

‘Yeah it was great. I haven’t finished the book yet but it was great as far as I read. It was just so good and I’d say the next book will be even better’.

‘Yes!! I really liked the book and Elizabeth is really nice’.

‘Yes, I thought it was amazing and I was so sad when I heard that the second one isn’t out yet’.

‘Yes, I thought it was really good and interesting’.

‘Yes, I really enjoyed the book and the talk. She was nice’.

‘Yes, I liked it and mark it 10/10’.

‘Yes it was great. It was excellent to meet the author and her book was amazing’.

My favourite quote from a review:

“I loved this book so much that I made Lego figures of Zach and Ebony, and I don’t usually mix up my Lego figures! My mind was racing when I was reading this book, trying to piece together the clues, but I had to read to figure it out.” (Mia, aged 12)

And here’s a real treat – a surprise rat rap from Pied Piper of Hamlyn