Here’s a selection of the questions I’m most frequently asked. I’ll be adding to this list over time, but if there’s something you’d like to ask that’s not answered here, email me.
“What’s the best thing about being an author?”
The best thing is getting to spend my days making up adventures for my readers! Like most children’s authors, I write the stories I would liked to have read when I was younger – so I quite often find myself getting lost in my characters’ worlds. Plus, on the days I’m not at my desk, I get to visit schools and spread the word about how much fun writing your own stories can be!
“Who is your favourite author?”
I’m afraid I can’t narrow it down to just one! I read a lot (including a lot of children’s books, as that’s what I write), so I’m lucky enough to find books by great authors all the time. If I had to make a list of my current favourites, it would include: JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Eoin Colfer, Charlie Higson, Darren Shan, Barry Hutchison, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Anthony Horowitz, Philip Reeve, Lemony Snicket, Stephen King, Dav Pilkey and Andy Stanton.
“Which of the books you have written is your favourite?”
It’s always the book I’m working on at the moment; it has to be. I get so involved in my stories that I think about them when I’m eating, watching TV and (should be) sleeping! When I move on to my next book, that will instantly become my favourite!
“Where do you get your ideas from?”
A more accurate question would be to ask where don’t I get ideas from. I get ideas for stories from people I see, conversations I hear, things I read and many more places besides. In fact, a great way to come up with new story ideas is to simply match up two random words (like ‘killer’ and ‘toilet’) and see where your imagination takes you. For writers, however, ideas are not enough. It’s the execution of those ideas that makes a novel. In other words, can you take your idea and flesh it out to a full story with a beginning, middle and end? Can you add interesting characters, and make the reader want to root for them throughout their journey. If you can, that’s when you can turn an idea into an exciting story.
“How long does it take you to write a book?”
That’s a difficult question to answer as different books take different amounts of time. With Scream Street, for example, I worked on the series for two years before the first books were ever published. A first draft of a book for 7 to 9 year olds (around 16,000 words) will take me about a month. Subsequent drafts shouldn’t take as long but, if there are problems to sort out, even they can drag on. From start to finish, you’re looking at at least three months per book, and probably more.
“Do you do your own illustrations?”
I have all the artistic ability of blind spoon so, no, I don’t do my own illustrations. The lovely people at Walker Books found someone much more qualified for that!
“How can I become a writer, too?”
The best advice I can give anyone who wants to become a writer is to write. That might sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people I meet who tell me they’re going to write a book but, when I ask what they’ve written up until now, their eyes glaze over as though it’s the most ridiculous question in the world.
If you want to be a writer, you have to write, write, then write some more. There is no easy shortcut. Everything you write at the start of your career will be rejected – that’s just the way it is. The trick is then to take that piece of work, put it away, then start on something new, having learned from your mistakes. If you don’t think you’ve made any mistakes, or remain convinced that your writing cannot be improved, you’re going to get nowhere fast.
Take a look at my posts on How I Did It and my Top Ten Tips To Help You Get A Literary Agent. Then, research writing on the ‘net. Learn how to format a manuscript, write a query letter, pitch a story and more. Find a critique group, or start one with your friends, and work hard – every day – to improve your writing.
I’m being touted as a ‘debut author’ for Scream Street, yet I’ve been writing professionally for over ten years. That’s a long time to become an overnight success. Are you in it for the long haul, too? You’d better be.
“I’ve got a great idea for a book, will you write it so we can split the money?”
You’d be amazed how many times I get asked this. As I mentioned above, getting an idea isn’t the hard part. The execution of the idea is. How about if I come up with an idea, then you spend six months to a year developing and writing the book, and pay me half of whatever you earn from it? No? Thought not.
More questions coming soon!