Meanwhile: Interviews

I will blog about my school visits soon, (promise!!!) but in the meantime I hope you enjoy these interviews – one with Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize winner, Sally Nicholls, and the other with novelist Anne Brooke.

Sally first:

So, who’s it for and what’s it about?

It’s called ‘Ways to Live Forever’ and it’s about a boy called Sam, who has leukaemia. He has a whole lot of questions he needs answers to and a list of things he wants to do. He’s writing a scrapbook full of lists, pictures, questions and stories, running along behind which is the story of everything that happens in the last three months of his life.

It’s aimed at young people over about ten, although it may not be suitable for sensitive adults.

Why did you write it?

It was something that had been at the back of my mind for a while – I had a friend whose mother died, and a couple of other friends who were ill. There are a lot of books written about death, but most of them are about grief, not mortality. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be a young person and know that you only had a few months left to live.
I started doing some research about children with terminal illnesses, and the more stories I read, the more I realised that this was a story I really had to tell.

What do you hope readers will get from it?

I hope they’ll realise that death isn’t something they need to be frightened of. I hope it’ll encourage them to talk about dying – to each other and to their children. And I hope it’ll make them laugh. It’s a very funny book – as well as a sad one.

How long did it take you to write?

About ten months.

Did you use a fountain pen to write it?

No, I used a computer which my mum borrowed from the school she works at, then a laptop which my lovely boyfriend cobbled together for me from ancient computer bits he bought off Ebay.

You’ve just won the rather prestigious Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. (Congratulations!) How did that make you feel?

It’s all been a bit surreal! I’m very happy, but it feels a bit like the sort of thing that happens to other people – not me.

Tell us something about you.

I was (briefly) a world record holder as a participant in the world’s largest pillow fight. And I ran up down escalators as research for ‘Ways to Live Forever’.

Who’s your favourite writer?

How can you have a favourite writer? I like lots of people – Hilary McKay, Dodie Smith, Elizabeth Gaskill, JRR Tolkein, Terry Pratchett, Charlotte Bronte, Ursula le Guin …

Fave book?

See above. I have loads!

What’s next for you?

I’ve just got a shiny new website – And I’m finishing my second book – ‘The Midnight Hunter’ – which is based on the pagan myth of the green man. It’s got a bit of fantasy in it, but it’s still very much set in real life.

Anything you’d like to add?

You’re never too old to run up down escalators. Go on. Do it now. No one’s watching.

Thanks Sally – all the best!


Interview Number 2

And now for something a little different, from the lovely, Anne Brooke.

So, who’s it for and what’s it about?

Thorn in the Flesh” is for readers of crime and women’s issues in fiction. I actually did see it as more of a woman’s novel, but I’m surprised by the fact that men also seem to be enjoying it. It’s definitely not “fluffy” nor for the faint-hearted – my heroine is very strong-minded indeed and has her own unique views on life.

It’s about Kate Harris, a lecturer in her late thirties, who is attacked in her Surrey home and left for dead. Continuing threats hinder her recovery, and these life changing events force her to journey into her past to search for the child she gave away. Can she overcome the demons of her own personal history before time runs out?

Why did you write it?

I wanted to say something about how it’s possible to survive horrendous experiences and still move on in your life. I also wanted to say something about how difficult and “different” actions and decisions, which nobody else may understand or approve of, can sometimes be the best, and indeed only, way forward for a particular person in particular circumstances. It also became increasingly important, as I was writing it, for me to create a female main character who doesn’t like children – at all – and yet who is still a valid human being and woman. That may sound dramatic, perhaps, but even now, at the age of 43, I still find myself having to explain that yes, I’m delighted for my friends/colleagues to have children and I rejoice if people get what makes them happy (a rare enough event indeed!), but no I don’t want to communicate with their offspring or hold them (God forbid!). And no I certainly don’t want any of my own.

What do you hope readers will get from it?

Carthasis. I want to take readers into what is a lot of women’s worst nightmare, bring them through it and move them on. In this respect, it can be any nightmare – we all need to face our fears in some way or other, and fiction can be a valid way of doing this. I also want people to have a good read – a novel is, at its very heart, page-turning entertainment or should be! And underneath that, I want to make people think.

How do you think it compares to what you’ve written before?

My main character here is more socially aware and community-minded than most of my other MCs. She’s also, due to various circumstances in her past, more “frozen” in her emotions; whilst a lot goes on under the surface with Kate, she’s very self-contained and almost “formal” even in her approach to those she loves. For someone like me, whose characters are off-the-wall and very passion-driven, I have to say this was quite a challenge to write! I ended up having a hell of a lot of respect for Kate. I wish I had her strength.

How long did it take you to write?

About 18 months to 2 years, I think – but it’s hard to say as I wrote half of it, then stopped to write the whole of “Maloney’s Law”. After that was done, I went back to “Thorn in the Flesh” and finished it off. I’ve never stopped a novel to write another one before so it was something of a surprise to me! – perhaps I needed to let Kate mesh in my head more before I could really get to the heart of her? That’s the only reason I can think of anyway!

Did you use a fountain pen to write it?

No. Kate wouldn’t use a fountain pen – she’s too direct. She’d use whatever was to hand and whatever was simplest. For me, that works out as straight to screen on the computer and then edit as I go (plus the big edits afterwards of course!). And yes I do tend to mould my writing practice to how I think my MC would act. Interestingly, “Thorn” is the only novel I’ve written where I never scribbled any of it out on paper.

Tell us something about you.

Where I can, I like to put red-headed people in my novels. I come from a family of red-heads. We’re the forgotten class, you know … Yes, Kate has my hair-colour, but she doesn’t fit into the “type”!

What’s next for you?

Gosh, it’s going to be a busy year! I need to finish off the edit of my fantasy novel, “The Gifting”, for my agent and hope he likes it this time! Then I need to complete the first draft of my crime novel, “The Bones of Summer”, and prepare for the US publication of “Maloney’s Law” over summer/autumn. I also have ideas for a new novel (do you think I need to relax more? Help!) – something with a strong “difficult” heroine in her forties with a slightly more “literary” feel and a hint of crime takes my fancy, but it’s just vague thoughts for now.

Anything you’d like to add?

Yes! Thanks, Nik, for letting me waffle on for a while – I really enjoyed thinking through the questions!

0 Comments on “

  1.  by  Anne Brooke

    Thanks, Nik! Is this a nice author/mad author mix? – a bit like good cop/bad cop!!! I’m very taken with that pillow fight though – I demand pictures!:))Axxx

  2.  by  Nik's Blog

    He he! We’ll have to wait and see if Sally’ll oblige!Nice author/mad author? Nah. You’re both lovely.Nik.

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