Old Friends

So, in case  by some chance you missed it, my first interview on In the Wishing Chair went live at the weekend, and I’ve recorded a few more interviews since. I’ve had some lovely feedback, so many thanks to anyone who’s listened so far and given me such a boost!

There’s one particular question I’m asking everyone, which I’m told is very mean but I don’t care (cue evil laugh). It is: which ONE children’s book (any age/format/genre) would you recommend? Luckily, I’m the one asking not being asked!

It has got me thinking back though to some of the books I loved when I was growing up. I think the book I’d choose would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but there are so many that I read over and over, and from that thought I passed about half an hour musing on some of them, some that until now I’d forgotten but read repeatedly. And now I feel an urge to track them down, via libraries or ebay or amazon or whatever, to try and pin down what it was that made me revisit them so often (and if anyone’s got a battered old copy languishing in their loft, do let me know!).

Here’s a few to start with:

  • The Chalet School series. I loved these. I don’t think I read them all, but a great many. Joey seemed like a great role model at the time and I think, if I remember rightly, she went on to marry the most lovely doctor. Sigh.
  • St Clare’s. Responsible for a highly romanticised view of boarding school which seemed so much better than my boring comprehensive. And Claudine rocked. Probably, though, I’ll re-reread these and find them very old-fashioned! Funnily enough I never ever fancied trying Mallory Towers.
  • The Children of Green Knowe. I actually remember very very little about the stories or characters, but the mood of them stays surprisingly vivid. I remember them being creepy and mystical and chilling – I simply have to find out if this is a fair reflection.
  • Charlotte Sometimes. This was one of my favourites and I read it so many times I can remember scenes so clearly even 20 years on. Time travel that made sense.
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden. Again, time travel that made sense, and I remember it being very tightly plotted and little details turning out to be important and relevant later on.
  • The Worst Witch. The best misfit ever. And the tv version had  Diana Rigg fancying the pants off Tim Curry as the superstar wizard. Nuff said.
  • Rebecca’s World. I wouldn’t like to commit myself too much here, but there’s the tiniest chance I first read this simply because it had my name on it. I do know that I borrowed it time and again from my primary school library. The memories I have of it are so surreal and odd that I need to read it just to make sure I didn’t spend my last three years of primary school hallucinating.
So there are some of my old friends that I want to reacquaint myself with as soon as possible. Anyone like to share their old friends?
Oh, and if anyone fancies discussing their old friends with me for a podcast episode, let me know! We could even attempt a multi-person discussion… (maybe getting a little adventurous here!)

ABBA Lit Fest!

One of my favourite blogs is the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. It’s run by the Scattered Author Society, a group of very talented children’s authors who take turns writing some fascinating posts. If you’re interested in children’s writing, as a writer, reader or parent (or general busybody) it’s definitely a site to bookmark.

So imagine my excitement when I got a message to say that ABBA were running a literary festival – online! For 2 days these lovely people are going to be posting articles and interviews every half hour. I’m especially looking forward to the videos, of which Lucy Coats is definitely doing one, and the competitions. Oh rats, I didn’t mean to tell you about those. I want to win. Ah well.

One of the reasons I’m SO excited about this is because I just have this feeling that children’s literature is taking off in a major way. The children’s writers community is taking to the possibilities of the internet in the most motivating and inspirational way, and this festival is a big part of that. And it IS a community, make no mistake. As I’m finding my contacts online focus naturally on children’s writers as I become more confident in my potential to join their ranks, and as I have more ‘Real Life’ contact with children’s writers, I can say I have rarely found a group of people that support each other so much and that get excited by each other’s successes. I think writers in general seem to be this way (with the odd exception of course…) and children’s writers especially so.

So I will be joining in with the ABBA Lit Fest with enthusiasm and I highly recommend you join me!

Edited to add: D’oh! Forgot to mention the dates. 9 & 10 July 2011! 😉



After much humming and haa-ing I’m coming more and more round to the idea that I am at heart a Young Adult writer. I know I should probably have decided this by now. I’ve been calling myself a writer now for two years and been a Dabbler for rather more than that, but there you go. Some of us are a bit slower on the uptake than others.

The thing is, I have an overactive imagination and the attention span of a flea. I love so many different types of books – romance, adventure, fantasy; teenage or adult or historical or women’s contemporary fiction – that I flit from wanting to write one type to another. But I keep coming back to two things. Firstly, romance. You’d think this would be my first love because it’s probably my favourite genre for light reading; specifically, historical romance – even more specifically, Regency romance. I’ve said a million times on here that my biggest influences were Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. My husband certainly thinks I should write this kind of story because I love reading them so much and I know the world like the back of my hand. And I do love the times when I’m writing this style. I’ve got a novella on the go that I’m pretty happy with. And to be perfectly honest, it’s probably the easier (note I said ‘easi-ER’, I’m far from kidding myself that any book is ‘easy’ to write) book for me to write, simply because for so long I’ve lived and breathed Regency romance. I even have a half-made Regency ball-gown tucked away in the linen chest (seriously. It was for a charity ball but I ran out of time and can’t bring myself to throw it away. It’s another project I will finish ‘one day’).

But for a long time I’ve been awed by the scope of the Young Adult novels around. The authors I’m being introduced to (Gillian Philip, Nicola Morgan, Cat Clarke, Malorie Blackman, Michael Morpurgo and the list goes on and on and on) and the stories they’ve written are amazing. There’s a to-be-read list as long as my arm and there seems no limit to what you can write about. The idea of putting myself alongside those authors feels a bit pretentious and getting too big for my boots but the truth is they are just so inspiring.

I remember being a teenage reader (pre-empting any cheeky comments, it wasn’t THAT long ago) and the excitement of losing myself in a book. Some of my childhood books are still my favourite books – Narnia, pretty much anything by Edith Nesbit or Enid Blyton (St Clare’s, anyone?) The Chalet School series, A Little Princess or The Secret Garden – before I moved onto Georgette Heyer then Jane Austen. I don’t know how those books would do today if they were coming new to the market and the books I’m seeing in the Young Adult sections are completely different, but the point is that the books I was introduced to as a young reader stayed with me. I want to write one of those books. Again, not another Railway Children, but a book that some teenager might read and keep on their shelves as an old favourite when they’re thirty or fifty or seventy. Maybe the book that encourages a teenager to keep reading when they’re on the point of being distracted by something shinier and noisier.

There are three story ideas dancing around in my head, and have been for a while. The first is my Regency – not a romance, but an adventure – which I’ve had on the go for a while and am making slow but sure progress with. The others are completely contrasting and more… involved. Not particularly complicated, but they are going to take a LOT of imagination and constructing an entirely different world to the ones I’ve been used to. The thing is, they’ve all come into my head as books for teenagers. It puts a lot of pressure on – I know how critical a teenager can be and the demand is basically that I write the best book I can and then make it better. Gulp. But it also opens up immense possibilities as to where the story can go, and that’s one of the things I find so exciting about kidlit. Of course, nothing is set in stone. I will write the best books I can and I guess that will determine what type of author I am!


On a side note, I’m considering calling it a day with the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s been interesting and motivating coming up with a daily post, and I’m tempted to carry on because I’ve committed to it and it would be fun to see what happens (especially at W, X, Y and Z…) but I’m not sure it’s doing me any favours. Writing a post because it’s something I do daily probably isn’t producing my best posts, and I could be using the time I’m thinking of and writing blog posts on the fiction. And due to IMMENSE tiredness and the madness that is two small children, that time is precious.

On the other hand, it is getting me in the discipline of doing some writing every day. I dunno. I’d appreciate any thoughts from anyone? If you’ve been reading the blog, I’d be really grateful for any comments on how it’s going and whether it’s worth keeping up the challenge to the end of April. And thanks for reading so far!