The trouble with the love of writing is that it’s contagious. First of all I caught it from my teachers at primary school but I owe a particularly large chunk of gratitude to an English teacher I had for just my fourth year at secondary school, Mr McGough. In my dreamy mid-teens, I fell under the spell of his inspirational teaching. He was expressive and enthusiastic in his responses to my writing and it spurred me on. I’ve been writing all my life. Through my teens and twenties I wrote poetry but it wasn’t until I started teaching that I began thinking about children’s stories.
I did many things in my life before I started writing. I’ve been a shop assistant, a residential social worker, a mother to three wonderful children, an ante-natal teacher and finally I became a primary school teacher. Busy with family and full-time work, I wrote very little for many years.
I started writing my book series a year ago. One of the units of literacy we were teaching was about stories set in imaginary worlds. I was working on some shared writing with the children when the idea for the first book was born. ‘The Rise of Agnil’, book 1 of the ‘Agnil’s Worlds’ fantasy series for 7-10 year olds was published in December 2013, followed by ‘Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb’ in March 2014 and ‘Agnil and the Tree Spirits’ in June. The fourth book of the series, Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret was published in April 2015
I mostly write at my computer which is on a very untidy desk, scattered with scribbled notes and scraps of paper. I often used to write at a house in south-west Germany, where I spent a lot of my time. The surrounding landscape was full of beautiful forests and when I was there, I’d often go for walks and pick mushrooms. Forests there really felt quite magical and I sometimes imagined I was about to stumble upon the cottage of the wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel! In the autumn, when the leaves take on all their glorious shades, and winter, when the boughs of the trees are laden with snow, there is nowhere more inspiring.
When I get an idea for a story, I start by doing some research. It’s amazing how much research you have to do when you’re writing books about elves! I gather images to help me get a sense of location. Sometimes these are photos I’ve taken myself (photography is my hobby) but often they are pictures I’ve found online. I save web pages of information into my writing program. I use a program called Scrivener, which makes it easy for me to keep everything in one place. I don’t write any notes on paper but I make a few notes in Scrivener when I start and as I go along. I write little character portraits and have an idea of how the story is going to start and how I’d like it to end. The trouble is, the elves will often come and whisper over my shoulder, telling me to change this and that. I have to follow what they tell me. After all, they’re the ones who know what happened best!
As a child my favourite books were Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and the Narnia books by CS Lewis. I was so disappointed when I got to the end of them! Maybe that’s why I have chosen fantasy as my genre, so I can still visit other worlds with my characters!
Several years ago my eldest daughter worked in a children’s bookshop in Cambridge and she introduced me to Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. They were such wonderful books and I still have them at the back of my mind, along with Narnia, as I write.
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