A week ago my good friend and brilliant writer Susie Day (author of the brilliant Pea books among others) tagged me in a sort of bloggy toury thingy (that’s a technical term, by the way). You should nip over to read her What, Why and How I write and then come back here…I’ll make a cuppa while you’re reading it!
Righty-ho. So here are my answers:
What am I working on?
I’m working on three things at once right now. One of them is the most important to me; it’s an idea I had over a year ago, and I still haven’t got it quite right, though I’m getting closer with every draft. It matters to me HUGELY that I get it right, because as far as I’m aware, there’s nothing quite like it ‘out there’ at the moment. PLUS it’s all kind of caught up in my ideas about feminism and role models for girls and stuff like that. All I can tell you is that it’s aimed at 8-12s, and I’m working on it collaboratively (my first ever joint book!) with another author/illustrator, who is FAB. We’re both very excited 🙂 The second thing I’m working on is a YA detective series, and the third thing is an 8-12s novel I wrote before Christmas that needs a ruthless re-write. I don’t yet have contracts for any of them, hence my opportunity to flit from one project to another!
Hmm, this is a tricky one to answer. ‘My work’ encompasses quite a few different styles and genres, as well as age groups! HowEVER, I’m going to answer this about my latest book, Looking at the Stars. I suppose the ‘genre’ is literary fiction with the theme of war. Other books it could be compared to are The Silver Sword (Ian Serrailler), The Breadwinner/Parvana’s Journey (Deborah Ellis), and any number of books about World War II and the splitting up of families. Looking at the Stars is very different from the books I’d written previously. I wanted to write a story about a girl with ideas who wasn’t allowed to express them – and then to find a way for her abilities to be valued and for her to come to realise that she had a special gift. Amina, my central character, is sparky and imaginative but she’s been born into an unstable country and as the book begins, she’s been banned from attending school and forced to adhere to all kinds of rules that make women and girls second-class citizens. Her imagination – in fact anyone with imagination – is seen as a threat. I suppose what makes my book different from the others is that I deliberately didn’t set it in an identifiable country. I don’t name the country in the book, only cities and towns and villages. It has similarities to Syria, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as many African countries. I wanted people to read it and be able to identify with Amina without becoming ‘distanced’ by the location. I’m also hoping that the book is different because it contains a lot of stories within stories: Amina is a storyteller, and so (like Scheherezade), there are mini-adventures within the bigger picture.
Why do I write what I do?
This is kind of an easy one! I write what interests me. I don’t write what I already know – I’ve never really understood that piece of writing advice! I start with an idea and then I go from there, which is why all my books have been very different so far! I also write because I love it. It’s magic. I love what it does in my brain and how somehow words form themselves under my fingers; words I haven’t always consciously thought of. And I write for young people because it’s where I feel most at home, word-wise. And because it’s a proper challenge, and I like a good challenge 🙂
How does my writing process work?
Er…well, I sit down and make up some sentences…and I check Facebook, and I put the washing on…and I make up some more sentences…and then suddenly I catch fire and the words are spilling out of me and it’s that magical process in which I have no idea what’s happening but it’s GOOD…and THEN I have to stop and go pick up my daughter from school. And then the next time I get to write (which isn’t always the next day because I also have a toddler who only attends nursery three days a week), I have to try to remember where I was in the story last time, and to start with it’s all very hard work and my brain is sludgy and then, just as my time is running out, I catch fire again and the words tumble and pour out of me in a frenzy of 1000 per hour – and then I am forced to stop again!
So ‘my writing process’ could best be described as: magical, frustrating, interrupted 🙂
And there you go! I’m supposed to tag two more writers, but since I only remembered I was supposed to do this post at 7.30pm today (oops, sorry, Susie! And you thought I was SO organised!) I haven’t got round to asking anyone. However, you can check out the following authors answering the same questions on their blogs: