Who or what first inspired you to become a writer?
I think it was a way I could express myself. I was a shy child and HATED actually performing, but writing was a way of “performing” without having to act or blush or forget my lines. I always loved making people laugh or cry with words. I’m probably a little power-crazy and language is THE power!
How did you feel when you had your first novel published?
Thing is, it happened so slowly that in the end it didn’t feel as special as I’d expected. First a couple of agents were a bit interested and then more interested; then it took a while before I signed the contract with my agent, then a while longer before the agent actually sold the book to a publisher, and then over a year more before it was actually published. So, by the time I saw my book on shelves I’d pretty much got used to the idea. But I LOVED the moment when I first saw and touched the real book. Mind you, I feel that exact same pleasure when I see and touch the first copy of each of my books. I stroke it and carry it around for a few days!
Who are your own favourite authors?
That question is very similar to “What are your favourite foods?” It just depends what I feel like at the time. I have lots of favourite authors. Here are a few: Kate Atkinson, Bernice Rubens, David Almond, Kevin Brooks, Ian Banks, Joanne Harris and Robert Cormier. They are all very different. Ask me on another day, and I’d probably have some different ideas.
Did you have a favourite book or books when growing up?
Different books at different ages. I was a pony-mad girl, so anything with ponies, even if it was really badly written! ‘The Little White Horse’ was a huge favourite for ages. Another that I loved and read over and over was ‘The Black Tulip’ by Alexander Dumas and I loved the Willard Price books. I needed books all the time, and lots of them were “easy” ones, like Enid Blyton, and others were “harder”, like Thomas Hardy and Graham Greene. I didn’t really mind, as long as I had a good story in my hands. I liked to be ill, so I could read all day in bed!
How does it feel to have your novels studied in schools?
I have slightly mixed feelings! First, I’m really, really proud when teachers choose my books, because it means that they think they’re good and they think you will like them, too. But I also wince a bit because I know that some of you will end up hating the book. Thing is, I believe we should read for pleasure, and my books are written for you to enjoy more than anything else. But I also believe that studying books in class is really important – especially for those of you who want to be writers, but also for anyone, to get the greatest possible understanding of how stories work. Stories and literature are so important to us as humans – recent research shows that reading novels develops our emotional intelligence, tolerance and wisdom, and I have to be proud if I’m even a tiny part of that.
What is your new novel ‘Wasted’ about?
Chance, luck, fate, risk, danger, obsession, passion, alcohol, quantum physics, Oedipus, imperfect parents, bereavement, grief, love, hate, mistakes, and why leaving the house ten seconds earlier could change your life.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on just now?
It’s top secret! Even I don’t know! I’m working on several things but I’m waiting to hear from my agent which one I should go with. It’s an exciting time in my career just now and I’m writing some adult non-fiction about how to write, so that’s a new direction, too. Watch this space!
How would you encourage pupils at the High School to read more books?
It depends on the pupil. There are millions of books out there and I believe there are books which will inspire everyone, if you can only find the ones that suit you. So, this is what I’d say:
1. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re a “good” reader; or whether you read slowly or fast – it’s not a race.What top tips would you give to teenagers who want to get into writing?
2. Although reading IS very good for us, don’t think about that: just aim to find books you enjoy. When you’ve enjoyed some, then try something different. Reading is a journey and it will take you to places you’ve never imagined.
3. The only people who say reading is stupid or boring are people who don’t understand, or who haven’t managed to find the book for them, or who are afraid of it. Reading is everything you want it to be, because books are everything you want them to be – funny, scary, exciting, weird or simple, deep or light, gory, shocking, relaxing – anything at all.
1. Read hungrily.
2. Practise – it takes years, just like trying to be a professional musician, dancer or footballer. So, do it! You don’t have to show it to anyone until you want to.
3. Start small – don’t think about writing a novel until you are desperate to. Don’t worry about the length of what you’re writing. Just make it as long as feels right.
4. Do it because you enjoy it. Writing is for pleasure, even if it’s hard, and because it’s hard you have to get pleasure from the result. So, enjoy it!