How many books have you had published?
I have had two novels for Young Adults published, and the third of the Trilogy is to be published next July. Numerous short stories, (for adults) have been published in magazines and anthologies. Meanwhile, the 'undiscovered' novels are bulging out of their folders in the famous bottom drawer.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
From the age of six, I was filling notebooks with stories of elves, fairies and witches. My teacher used to take them home to read to her elderly mother. I soon had a library of my own works, fully illustrated and bound with red knitting wool! My parents bought me a second hand typewriter for my eighth birthday. After that there was no stopping me.
Have you always earned your living as a writer?
In my time, I've been a Museum Guide, a School Dinner Lady, a Cleaner, Care Assistant in an old folk's home, Tourist Information Assistant, fairly mundane jobs which left my head free for writing. I now write full time, but also work as a Reader for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
The Henry Game was published in June 2002
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
The Henry Game was snapped up quite quickly, due mainly to good timing. The children's departments of Random House and Transworld were merging and looking for new writers.
This came after five years of trying to get my 'adult' novels accepted. The problem was they were never quite 'adult'
enough and it took a good agent to point out which market I should be aiming for.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The Henry Game, because it includes all my favourite subjects, magic, humour and history. After writing so many adult novels, I wanted to give full rein to my imagination. Writing Henry was the best fun I ever had!
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
It's so unfair to single out just one. I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Midnight Folk as a child. Most recently I found Coraline by Neil Gaiman, impossible to put down.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on how much re-writing is needed. The first draft is usually scribbled in a couple of months.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I find it impossible to compose straight onto a computer. I still love the ritual of buying brand new exercise books from Smiths, and a good clutch of black gel pens.
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
I tend to hibernate during first drafts. During that period, I will feverishly scribble as the chips burn and the pots boil over, whenever inspiration strikes.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
It's fine, as long as I agree with my editor about the changes.
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Do you have an agent?
Yes, Mary Pachnos at Gillon Aitken
Why do you like writing for children?
I write primarily for myself. It just happens that I have the mentality of a 14 year old!
How do you get your ideas?
I think someone whispers them into my ear when I'm asleep. Seriously, ideas often have to be pieced together out of various ingredients, the past, dreams, TV programmes, newspaper articles, a place. Sometimes, (although this is rare) they arrive out of nowhere like a gift from the gods. Some of my best ideas have come to me in the bath, or on long, monotonous car journeys.
The idea for The Henry Game was like a gift. Originally, it came from my own memories of messing about with an ouija board as a teenager. I just thought what if the spirit in the glass had been someone famous? The minute I thought this, Henry VIII came into my head, and the story then wrote itself.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Don't! Write for yourself.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I'm happy to visit schools in Shropshire or neighbouring counties. I can be contacted either through my publishers (Random House), or my email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you won any awards or prizes?
I've won plenty of awards for my short stories. These include the Asham Award, Pen and Inc, Writer of the Year, West Midlands Arts Literary Award, Writer's Bureau, and many others.
For a list of Susan's books in print click here