How many books have you had published?
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Not at primary school. I wrote at home with my cousin - all about cattle rustling! In my last year at secondary school I suddenly re discovered writing stories.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I was a primary school teacher for eight years and a family counsellor for NCH Action for Children and NSPCC for 14 years. I've earned part of my income from writing for the last 23 years.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
1977 - The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No, not really although the first publisher that we worked with did not publish it in the end. The second publisher we approached lost/mislaid the artwork for seven months and then it was accepted instantly by Andre Deutsch.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Queen of he night illustrated by David Armitage -wonderful atmospheric illustrations. I really enjoyed writing The Lighthouse Keeper's Breakfast -its the yen for a 'a private life' - what a fantasy.
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
Tom's Midnight Garden (Older Children)
Most books illustrated by John Burningham (Picture books).
How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies really because it always spends some time in my head. So - one day to three years! My husband David illustrates most of the books I write - that of course takes longer.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I swore I would always write long hand (because that's what real writers do) until I bought an old computer. Now I wouldn't use anything else.
Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
The books I mostly write in the mornings in between the other activities that David and I persue. Other writing - for magazines and non-fiction titles I write to the deadline date.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I used to hate it. Now I enjoy the freedom to write a general first draft because I know I can refine and refine. I enjoy re writing and the computer makes this so much easier..
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Yes, I have belonged and it did help, if only that I had to practise all sorts of writing. Writing is a craft, - you have to work at it to turn it into an art..
Have you got an agent?
Yes - Nancy Miles, of Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency and she's wonderful
Why do you like writing for children?
Because I found my own childhood both painful and exciting. Because childhood experiences are so vivid. Because I still enjoy being with children and being childlike sometimes and because I love picture books.
How do you get your ideas?
From anywhere and everywhere. From listening with 'story' ears and looking with 'story' eyes. Sometimes I remember to jot these ideas down.
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No, my husband David does this and the story usually comes first.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I do school visits and so does David. We can be contacted via Jan Powling at Speaking of Books (tel: 020-8692-4704).
Have you won any awards or Prizes?
Yes. In New Zealand, the Esther Glen Award for Book of the Year for The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch.
For a list of Ronda Armitage's books in print click here