How many books have you had published?
About 20, mainly the "Coping with ." Series of books but also a few books based on TV programmes, such as Palace Hill, the book, The Number 73 annual, Your Mother Wouldn't Like it (the book) etc.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
NO - mainly because I couldn't spell. Still can't. Also I used to get into trouble for ignoring the brief and going into the realms of total fantasy.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
I teach. I started as an actor - still am. I then drifted into writing via running a Theatre In Education company. I couldn't find any plays that I liked so I wrote my own. Since then I've written about 40 stage plays and 250 hours of TV. I still act and have been in One Foot in the Grave, EastEnders, the Bill, London's Burning and Brookside. I died of the black death in Hornblower and have also worked with Steve Coogan, Frank Skinner, Jack Dee, Jeremy Hardy and Richard Blackwood. If I get the chance I write a character that I can play into my TV scripts - I appeared in one of my episodes of Sooty.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
I think it was The Number 73 annual, in about 1985. It made the shops but then got pulled because the TV producers spotted hundreds of spelling mistakes. The publisher hadn't bothered to proof read it! Oooops!
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No. I was approached by the TV company. The same was true of the next few books - the publishers approached the TV companies and they approached me. Once I had done a few TV tie-ins Scholastic asked me if I'd like to write something for them. I devised the Coping with books, and went from there.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
I don't have a favourite, although I did write a book about Christopher Columbus which made me realise that history can be great fun - so that's a bit of a favourite. I like mixing history and comedy. In the book - called The Life and Times of Christobal Colon (no longer in print) - I say that Columbus was a champion conker player who invented the trainer. He didn't as far as I know!
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
I don't really have one. Because I spend so much of my time working in children's media I tend to read adult books for pleasure. My favourite author is probably Michael Crichton. I also like Terry Pratchett's hat.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Coping with Parents, the first "Coping with " book, took ten days flat out from start to finish. This is because everything my mum and dad have ever done is stored in my brain. Coping with Computers, which was never published, took a year. Books tend to take as long as you let them. If I feel inspired I think much faster than my fingers can type, which doesn't matter because I can't spell anyway. I also have a lot of computer games on my PC for when I don't feel inspired.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
My handwriting is so bad that I'm amazed that I'm not a doctor. I write straight onto the computer and can't understand how I ever survived without one. I love being able to cut and paste - but I hate the smug way the computer is always correcting my spelling. Computers think that they are so clever, but they aren't. I've programmed mine to say "You are a genius - I am a plastic box".
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel
When I feel like it. I miss a lot of deadlines, except when I'm really motivated. Large sums of money help. I don't believe in writing if you'd got nothing to say, even if that doesn't always stop me!
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I'm a great 'fiddler'. So if I have re-writes to do I tend to make lots of other changes as well. I like to keep coming at my work from different angles. Things often change completely. But that doesn't stop me complaining to my editor or producer!
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Not really. I have lectured to them though. That helped them - I hope! I've never been comfortable sharing my work with other people until I'm happy with it. Unfortunately in TV you have to all the time. I have tried writing with other people, but they usually don't understand my logic any more than I do.
Do you have an agent?
Yes. He's an ex-writer himself and so he understands.
Why do you like writing for children?
I've always worked for children. I do other things and then keep coming back. I like their honesty - I like the fact that you can't get away with rubbish, even though some people manage it! I don't even try, and ultimately they are far more rewarding than adults. I love watching them discover that they can do something , whether it be writing or some other creative art.
How do you get your ideas?
They just arrive. Because I'm also an actor I gather people and things - I gatecrash other people's conversations and eavesdrop all the time. I store everything up and most of it comes in handy. I also seem to attract strange people, and that's a great source of inspiration. I used to write ideas down, but I always forgot where I'd put them! I hate repeating things - I hate repeating things - and if an idea feels familiar I discard it.
Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first
- the words or the pictures
No - I really can't draw. I've tried, and that's how I know that I can't do it! The words come first, but I think very visually and so when I get together with my illustrator I already have lots of ideas - I think he appreciates my input (I hope he does, anyway!)
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Do it. Read a lot - that improves your writing technique because it helps you appreciate what is good and why. Don't be put off by publishers turning you down - they aren't always right. Many publishers tend to follow trends rather than create them, and that can be very frustrating.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes I am. I already do quite a few visits, all over the country. As my books have now been translated into many other languages I'm looking forward to going abroad. My books tend to be enjoyed by 8-14 year olds, but because I also write TV things like Bob the Builder and Sooty I enjoy working with very young children as well. I tend to do a talk about how an idiot like me gets to become a writer. The talk is intended to be inspirational and funny - I am told that it is both. I also do workshops ranging from simple story-building for very young children to writing workshops to for older children. My speciality is comedy, but I also love working on research-based things. You can see details on my website petercorey.com
Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes. There have been eight TV programmes based on the Coping with books, and between them they have won four BAFTA awards, the Prix Jeunesse, a Writers Guild award and a Bronze Apple. This last one was awarded in California, but I wasn't allowed to go and get it!
To visit Peter's website, click petercorey.com
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