How many books have you had published?
Three: Dark Thread (for ages 8-12) OUP 1998
Mr Rabbit (beginner readers) Oxford Reading Tree
Warrior Girl (age10+) OUP 2005 & HarperCollins US (Greenwillow) Feb 2006
I have two more books in a drawer and one which has just been accepted for publication by OUP.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes. Not at school, but at home - mainly poetry
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
For many years, I was a teacher in mainstream secondary schools, and I still teach part-time in a school for pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
Dark Thread, a time-slip adventure, set in modern and 18thc. Derbyshire, with scenes in Arkwright's cotton-spinning mill in Cromford, was published in 1998.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes, it was difficult. It was rejected several times over a period of four years, before it was finally accepted.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The one I'm working on , because I love the writing. Each stage of the process is exciting in a different way. The first draft is a great challenge. You're completely free to write whatever you like, then as the characters develop, they dictate how things go, as they react to the twists of the plot. Then there's the 'wet spaghetti' stage where you think you'll never untangle all the strands and bring things to a conclusion, and when you finally finish the first draft, you feel as if you've run a marathon. Time to pause and celebrate before you begin the next stage - rewrites!
Which is your favourite children’s book written by someone
There are so many. One of my favourites is Pigeon Summer by Ann Turnbull. I loved Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful too.
How long does it take you to write a book?
About a year.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I write first drafts in a notebook using a pen or pencil, then transfer each chapter to computer as I go along. I'm reluctant to give up the slower longhand stage because that's when the book 'grows' and becomes richer and more solid. I've not found a shortcut to that process.
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel
I try to have a strict routine for the days when I'm not teaching. I begin at 9am and work until about 1pm.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I like editing and rewriting, because it's a distillation process or a polishing, so there's usually some improvement. There are always those days when nothing goes right though and then I hate it!
Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group? If so, did
I've belonged to two groups and they've both helped me in different ways. The first was run at an FE college and was for writers interested in publication. It was hard work because we had to write a 2000 word short story every week for homework, which was arduous for a raw beginner. But the experience was an enormous help in developing the discipline of writing regularly and building up a body of work. I've since sold several of those stories.
The second group was less formal, meeting in the home of one of the members, with several published writers mentoring the rest of us, who were struggling to get into print. I'm still in touch with the friends I made there.
Do you have an agent?
Why do you like writing for children?
It's a challenge! Children often ask tricky questions which really make you think. They let you know their unvarnished opinions and you have to make sense to them or they won't listen. When you realise that you are actually reaching them, it's a great thrill and privilege.
How do you get your ideas?
From so many different sources. I soak up snips of information from books, TV, newspapers, conversations, places, experiences. The idea for Dark Thread came from my own bereavement after my mother died, woven into the history of the first factories and child labour , a system which began at Arkwright's Mill, near where I live. The idea for Warrior Girl came when I stood next to the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, in the market place in Rouen, northern France. It was such an overpowering feeling of history, drama, injustice to a girl of 19 - I just had to write the story.
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
First you have to think like a child, perhaps exploring your own childhood memories for something funny or terrifying or very sad to write about. Your main character will be on the brink of a crisis. Often parents are missing: the child hero might be alone or sent away - Famous Five stories, Tom in Tom's Midnight Garden, Will and Lyra in His Dark Materials - or the parents might be dead, and the hero quite alone, bullied or suffering - Oliver Twist, Harry Potter. Ask your hero about the crisis and what they plan to do about it.
It helps to write the same incident in both first person and third. Then you can decide which to use. Give yourself time. It can take months of writing every day to see where a book is going.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I am willing to do author visits, preferably within the Midlands area: Notts, Derbys, Leics, South Yorks, Cheshire and East Lancs: but I would travel for a special event. I usually meet Yrs. 6-9. You can contact me via by website.
Have you won any awards or prizes?
In 2003 I was given an Arts Council Writers' Award for Warrior Girl as a work in progress.
You can find out more about Pauline Chandler and her books on her website.