Monday, 28 December 2009

Questions and answers on reading mainly

A while back, I was asked a bunch of questions about reading and writing....these were my answers...

What would you have answered?

When you were very young, did anyone read to you? Yes, my mother read a lot – I clearly remember Winnie the Pooh and Paddington being favourites. We sobbed over Black Beauty and Shadow the Sheep Dog. It was a bedtime ritual and totally sacred.

Did you have a favourite picture book?
I don’t remember picture books at all, weirdly. But I loved the illustrations in Pooh.
Did you read to yourself, can you remember what age you started doing that?
I think I was about seven when I started and by the age of eight I was voracious, hiding under the covers with a torch when I was supposed to be asleep.

Why did you read? To escape or experience adventure? Or another reason?
To lose myself in other worlds, to be inspired by adventures…same reasons I still adore reading now.

Did anyone ‘ignite’ a passion for reading, a teacher/relative/librarian for example?
No, not that I recall – though I do remember the Book Races run by the local library every summer. As we didn’t go away on holiday that much, and also because I read very fast, I always did pretty well and once went to a party in London for winners where I met Joan Aitken and other authors (names forgotten).

Were there any book characters who influenced you and your behaviour?
Yes, the Famous Five and Secret Seven made me desperate to solve mysteries – I would hide behind bushes and snoop on my neighbours. One, bless him, joined in the game and would leave coded notes around for me to find!

Were there any places in a book that you longed to be?
Boarding school (Mallory Towers). Anywhere with ponies (Jill books). On an island (Island of Adventure).

Were you inspired to read poetry or were you put off the genre?
Again, I loved Milne as a very young child but don’t recall reading much in the way of poetry as a child.

Did you enjoy fairy stories?
Which fairy story or myth, if any, has stayed with you?
I ADORED fairy stories and myths (still do - my book Walker is stuffed with local legends). The more gruesome the merrier. The Tinder Box was a favourite and I devoured Greek, Norse, Celtic myths too. The myth of Persephone always stayed with me….

Was there a book you hated? More than one?
Not as a young child. I loved the lot.

Can you think of any modern writers of children’s literature who you think will survive the test of time? Any that won’t?
Philip Pulman, Garth Nix, William Nicholson, Michelle Paver, Michael Morpurgo, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper.

Won’t? Hmm…..Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson. Jury’s out on JK Rowling.

Do you think that reading as a child made you want to become a writer?
Undoubtedly. I started writing when I was about eight or nine and have done ever since, in one way or another. Though being a reader also makes one painfully aware of one’s own shortcomings.

If you wrote for children in the future what form would it take? Poetry, novel, film, quick read, short story etc? Have you ever done so? Been published?
Novel. Yup, have written two children’s novels. First one long ago consigned to the dustbin. Second one now doing the rounds of publishers.

Do you have children, grandchildren or young friends/ relatives? Do they enjoy books? What do they prefer? How do you encourage them? If you do?
James (my son) enjoys reading but, left to own devices, would probably prefer his XBox or Wii or whatever. He loves action books though – the Cherub series is his absolute favourite right now. He has only read the first chapter of Walker as he says he is ‘scared of spooky books’.

Do they visit a library on a regular basis?
Yes. We're very lucky as we have a fabulous library just down the road……

Do you buy books for children? What was the last one you bought?
Tons. I buy a horde of children's and YA fiction for myself and also a bunch for my son. Last one I bought for myself was Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Last one for my son was The Set-up by Sophie McKenzie.

Is the love of books becoming rarer?
I hope not.

Has the computer/TV/DVD screen taken over from the written page?
Not quite, but it’s doing its damndest.

If so, will it herald the decline of imagination?
I don’t know. I think one’s imagination can be inspired by film (good film) as much as books – images and words are equally powerful. Just as art and theatre can inspire imagination. Above all, I'd recommend getting out into the natural world - that inspires the imagination like nothing else.

Do you have ONE favourite book from your childhood?
Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath (a two-parter, so hope that's not cheating) – my favourite books EVER.
Also loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising
The Narnia series
Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet

If you were sent to a Desert Island and were only allowed one children’s book what would it be?
The Northern Lights trilogy (I would like to read them in one go, rather than spaced out over a few years).

Okay, so I'd love to know what your favourite reads were/are.... And do you think TV, DVD and gaming is wrecking the imagination?


  1. We spent very little time with my Dad as children, but I vividly remember him reading us The Wind in the Willows and Three Men in a Boat (not a children's book per se, I admit!). I was a proper bookworm, reading everything from The Water Babies when I was very small (remember that?!) to A A Milne and then to Treasure Island and beyond. I loved Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' (precocious little shit that I was) and frightened myself half to death with true crime books.

    My boys are both mad about books. The 11 year old is nutty on those Cherub books,and the 14 yr old loves Garth Nix. They're both also nutty about the playstation, but happily the two don't seem to clash too much.

    Your new book sounds fab, Jane, and I'm sure both mine will want to read it (especially as I'm a personal friend of the author *cough*)

    Big hugs! xx

  2. I don't remember my parents reading to me, but the books I liked so much as a child are nothing like the books I like to write now (thank goodness, lol). My Side of the Mountain was a favorite, Nancy Drew, My Friend Flicka (and lots of horse stories). Going way back, Winnie the Pooh (Eeyore was my fav character there). As I got older, I liked anything magical.

  3. EM: Cherub and Garth Nix are both fabulous....LOVE Sabriel etc. But, by heck, you WERE a precocious child!

    Madison: Eeyore was my favourite too.. gloomy and depressed - nothing much has changed!

  4. I too wanted to be either in the Mallory Towers books, the Jill books or in the Arthur Ransome books.

    Thank you for sending me the link to this. Much enjoying reading.