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Gillian Cross

How many books have you had published?
38 (I think)

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, but I never finished anything. Chapter One was always fantastic, but when I looked back at it I thought YUCK and tore it up.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I've been a childminder and assistant to an MP, and worked in a university and for a village baker (not at the same time.). But writing's the only thing that's ever earned me enough money to live on

When was your first book published and what was it called?
1979 The Runaway

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes. It took me five years and by the time I found a publisher I'd finished five books. But then I found TWO publishers (for different books) in the same week. So it was worth the wait!

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
I haven't got an absolute favourite. I've had a good time writing them all. But I feel particularly fond of Wolf and The Great Elephant Chase and Chartbreak and The Tree House.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
Again, I haven't got an absolute favourite. But two that are really important to me are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Tulku by Peter Dickinson.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Nine months for a long book, if I'm lucky - but it has taken as long as two years. And often I read up about things for quite a long time before I start to write.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I usually start out on the computer, take to longhand when I get stuck, until the book takes off, and then go back to the computer. If I get REALLY stuck I'll do anything that might help, even writing with my left hand.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
In theory, I write every school day from nine thirty to one. Except for Thursday when I go to church in the morning and write in the afternoon.
But it doesn't always work out like that . . .

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I love it. The hard part is getting the first draft finished. After that, I have a lovely time.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
No, I've never belonged to one. I'm very secretive and embarrassed about things until they're completely finished.

Do you have an agent?

Why do you like writing for children?
I love to write stories where lots of things happen and where I can do anything that I can get away with.

How do you get your ideas?
By good luck.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
No, they won't let me do the pictures

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
  -Do it.
  -Make sure you have fun - or none of your readers will.
  -Don't underestimate the readers.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes, I do school visits, but I'm usually booked up at least a year ahead. The best way to contact me is via
Oxford Children's Books
Oxford University Press,
Great Clarendon Street,
Oxford OX2 6DP

Have you won any awards or prizes?
The Carnegie Medal for 1990 for Wolf
The Smarties Prize 1992 for The Great Elephant Chase
The Whitbread Children's Novel Award 1992 for The Great Elephant Chase

For a list of Gillian Cross' books in print, visit her website at

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