Today’s Interview with an Author is with my very special guest and Twitter friend, Anne Booth!
What got you into writing?
I think what got me into writing was reading. Like most writers I’ve always loved reading, and stories are so wonderful it just seemed natural to want to make some up myself. I also grew up in a family where lots of stories were told and enjoyed – my parents could make just going to the shops and meeting a neighbour into a dramatic anecdote!
What’s your favourite book?
Saying what my favourite book is impossible – as there are so many wonderful books out there and new ones to discover every day, both for adults and for children. I am a big fan of picture books and fiction for children in general, and think that adults who don’t read them are missing out on some of the best writing and illustrations available today. I would say that the Moomin books by Tove Jansson are amongst my all-time favourite books.
I love reading across genres too. I know I love and admire P.G. Wodehouse and find his humour and amazing skill with words a great comfort and inspiration when I am feeling stressed. I will never forget the effect reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee had on me, so I think that may count as one of the best books I’ve read. I love George Eliot and the Brontes, but I particularly love each of Jane Austen’s novels, and find that my favourite one of hers changes every few years, so she may be my ultimate author. I’m feeling inspired by ‘Sense and Sensibility’ at the moment, but I have always loved ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and have often identified with Catherine in ‘Northanger Abbey’! I do love contemporary gentle romantic fiction too. I also love nonfiction, and have found that I am now getting hooked on history books. Virginia Nicholson is a nonfiction writer I think is wonderful – her book on ‘Among the Bohemians’ partly inspired an adult novel I wrote and would like to go back to.
What’s your writing routine?
My writing routine varies, as I am currently supporting two elderly parents in not very good health. This means that I had to give up my part time work because of all the varying hospital and doctors’ appointments I have, and I’m never sure form one week to the next how busy things will be. On the negative side this can get very overwhelming and exhausting when there are (all too frequent) crises, but on the positive side I have quiet weeks where I can write during the day as soon as my four teenage children leave for school, and work around my parents’ needs.
I try to fit in at least one dog walk every day, and this helps both my fitness and the mulling over of difficult plot problems.
Here are my two dogs putting their heads together after a difficult plot- problem-solving walk!
I often visit Twitter – and although this can take up too much time I have found that following links to articles and reviews found on Twitter has inspired my writing and given me lots of ideas.
Each genre I read or write has its own attractions.
I recently went to a conference where the art of picture book writing was described as ‘writing haikus for aliens’, and I think this gets near to describing how difficult writing a good picture book text is. I have 2 picture books coming out in the future with Nosy Crow Publishers and I found the process of writing them and being edited both very hard work and fascinating. It’s wonderful to see the work of the illustrator they have put with my texts – Rosalind Beardshaw’s gorgeous illustrations to ‘The Fairiest Fairy’ (my first picture book – coming out next year), are vital – they are essential alongside the text and it would not work at all without them. I did an M.A. in Children’s Literature back in 1993-95, and my dissertation was on Shirley Hughes, so she is a particular favourite of mine, and I feel very proud to be a picture book writer. Ultimately I’d like to become brave and good enough to illustrate my own work, but that’s another story…
I am currently editing a second and writing a third new book for 9-12/13 year olds. ‘Girl with a White Dog’ was for that age group (though some adults are reading it!
And I have read and keep reading lots and lots of wonderful books published for that age group. They are so excitingly different. I have just finished and loved the third novel -‘The Silver Flame’ in my fellow Catnip author Margaret Bateson Hill’s ‘Dragon Racer’ trilogy, set in a parallel contemporary Britain where dragons are kept and raced, and where the heroine, Joanna, mind-melts with hers in a Brixton dragon training centre! In one way it is so different from ‘Girl with a White Dog’ – but I hope they are both stories children will lose themselves in – and I feel rather wistful that there aren’t dragons for children (and adults!) to ride.
I have a book for 5-8 year olds coming out later this year with O.U.P., also with some beautiful black and white illustrations by Sophy Williams.
More information about it here:
My book is a gentle Christmas story, but there are some amazingly unusual and funny books for 5-8 year olds too – check out Alex T Smith’s ‘Claude’ books or Philip Reeve and Sarah MacIntyre’s ‘Oliver and the Seawigs’ for example. My favourite Shirley Hughes and her lovely illustrator daughter Clara Vulliamy have teamed together to do create a brill series of books with gorgeous retro illustrations by Clara about some gorgeous characters called Dixie O’Day and Percy.
What’s your favourite genre to write, or even to read?
I love historical fiction for older children, like that coming out of Hot Key press for example – Lydia Syson is an author I admire – and I think I might like to write something like that one day.
As a children’s author, do you find the writing process slightly different to when writing other fiction?
I do have more ideas for adult novels. I wrote one as part of my M.A. in Creative Writing but it never got published, so I’d like to try again, but alongside, definitely not instead of writing children’s books. I think I’d like to write books like Alexander McCall Smith, as I love the humour and feeling in his ‘No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series.
However, I do think it’s hard to find a more exciting and wide ranging genre than children’s books to write in today! I feel very very lucky to be a children’s writer.
Are your friends and family supportive of your writing career?
My friends and family are very supportive. It took me a LONG time – years of Arvon and other courses plus an M.A. in Creative Writing 2003-5 at Canterbury Christ Church University – to get published. I got the offer from Nosy Crow for my picture books BEFORE I got an agent, but everything else has come through my wonderful agent Anne Clark, http://www.anneclarkliteraryagency.co.uk who I signed up with last year.
Was it a personal choice to go with an agent?
I feel I really need Anne as an agent for her advice and support and all the hard work she does on contracts and just getting my book out there. I don’t think I have the right personality to take on all the incredibly hard work of being a self-published writer, and I really value the editing and advice I get from Anne and from my publishers. I feel I am becoming a better writer through being edited and my published book ‘Girl with a White Dog’ is a far better book now than when I submitted it, as are my edited but not yet published books. Nosy Crow have teamed my picture book texts with an amazing and respected illustrator, which I could never have hoped to do, just as O.U.P. have got the wonderful Sophy Williams to do the cover and the black and white illustrations for ‘Lucy’s Secret Reindeer’ – this I could never have managed by myself. The publishers too design and commission the lovely covers of my books. “Girl with a White Dog’ cover, designed by Philippa Johnson and illustrated by Serena Rocca, is BEAUTIFUL and has had lots of attention.
Also, my publishers and Bounce marketing make most of the contacts with press and media and conference organisers for me, so that’s a HUGE weight off my mind. They write lovely things like this:
Or get me publicity like this:
I’m sure there are people with different personalities and more organisational skills than me for whom self-publishing works, but I’m really glad and relieved and lucky I don’t have to do it.
How do you keep motivated?
I keep motivated by reading lots of children’s books, but also because I LOVE it. I think my biggest block (as with many writers) is self-doubt, which is why it is lovely to feel part of a team with my agent and publishers. Once I can get over those writerly fears that I can’t write and that everything I do write is rubbish (!) it’s not difficult to be motivated! I love doing the job of writing stories once I know the characters – the writer wants to see how the story ends and check everything turns out fine more than anyone! There isn’t a more fun job to do and I am very grateful I am doing it! ‘Girl with a White Dog’ had a special motivation for me, as I do feel very worried by the stories which are currently being told in the press about immigrants and the disabled, and I wanted to put a different story out there to counter them.
I have blogged about the process of writing and the motivation behind ‘Girl with a White Dog’ on my blog www.bridgeanneartandwriting.wordpress.com which also mentions the part my Christian faith plays.
I tweet as @bridgeanne, and I would recommend using Twitter to every writer. You have to be careful who you follow – but if you follow the right people you can make genuine friendships and have great discussions about writing and life, and learn lots of things which will give you ideas for new novels! I got my agent and my Nosy Crow contract through Twitter, so I can’t praise it enough!
Thank you so much, Anne! What a great interview!
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