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Adèle Geras

How many books have you had published?
74 (published and in the pipeline)

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, I've written for fun since I could write. I started with poetry, and when I was at school, the main thing I did was write plays for my friends and me to perform. But I went to the kind of school which emphasised academic work, so most of my writing after age 12 was in essays and what was called 'Composition.'

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I was supposed to be a STAR! I acted and sang my way through university (and school, too) and then when I married and came to live in Manchester, I couldn't get a job on stage, so became a teacher of French in a girls' school. Everyone knows that teaching is a performance art, and has what every star requires: a captive audience!

When was your first book published and what was it called?

My first book was published in 1976 and was called 'Tea at Mrs. Manderby's.' It was a Hamish Hamilton Gazelle book...for those who remember them..

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
I spent about two years sending out picture book texts with no luck whatsoever, but then realised that these were the hardest thing in the world to get published. After turning to 'series' books, like Gazelles, I wrote all sorts of books for all ages, and the picture book texts I started with were subsequently published by Hamish Hamilton in their Cartwheels series.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The latest book, the new one, is always the favourite. Currently, that's Troy (David Fickling Books. 2000) but I am very fond of all my novels, especially. Voyage and the Egerton Hall Trilogy (The Tower Room, Watching the Roses, Pictures of the Night.)

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
The sign on Rosie's Maurice Sendak

How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends what sort of book. I write for all age-groups and anything from picture book texts to almost-adult novels. The latter take about 6 months or so, the former can be quick, once you've worked out what you want to say.....which can take years of course. But generally speaking, I'm a fast writer.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I used to write lying down on the sofa in beautiful hard-backed notebooks. I'm mad about stationery. But when I came to write Troy, I knew it would be much longer than my other novels (it's 85.000 words long) and I thought I'd try writing straight on to the computer. Since then, I haven't looked back and now I do everything straight on to the machine.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
If I'm in the midst of writing a novel, I write every day. I try to do at least 1500 words at a sitting, but have been known to do more than 2000 on rare occasions. When I finish a book, I don't race to start another, but do an awful lot of pottering about and daydreaming. It's a bit like playing dolls' houses...moving people around in rooms in my head.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
As long as an editor prefaces all remarks by saying : "This is the most brilliant thing you've ever done," I'll rewrite and rewrite very happily. But ideally, I like it when they say: that's perfect. We'll print it just as it is...IN YOUR DREAMS, as they say...though it has happened a couple of times. What does get up my nose is when editors seem to want a completely different book. It's only happened to me very rarely, but it's awful... It reminds me of a good joke: Q: How many editors does it take to change a light bulb? A: Does it HAVE to be a light bulb?

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?

I never have...but I have a good network of friends and we discuss all sorts of writing problems: Jean Ure, Linda Newbery, Jacky Wilson, etc. are all very chatty and we gossip like mad, and exchange ideas.

Have you got an agent?
I do indeed, and couldn't imagine life without her. She is quite marvelous. Laura Cecil is her name, and she is a one-woman business, which means that you get a wonderful PERSONAL service and never feel part of someone's business. I've been with her since 1981.

Why do you like writing for children?

Children read properly. They have the time. If they like a book, they live in it, and it becomes part of their lives. Also children's books, if they are any good, become part of the furniture of our minds. Graham Greene said that, and it's true. I would, however be very sad if I thought that ONLY children liked my books.

How do you get your ideas?

From places, from memories, from artifacts, like photos...but when I'm asked this question in schools, I sometimes say: From the National Westminster Bank. Because it's a fact that if someone is waving money at you, you do get inspired to write what they want you to...I often accept commissions for short stories, for instance, with not an idea in my head beyond: I'd really like to be in that anthology.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?

No, I don't draw at all.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Write something YOU enjoy. Don't talk down. Read some current good writers and try and avoid copying the latest craze. Keep away from boys at schools learning's been done.. 

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I am doing very few visits at the moment...not more than 2 a month, but will be doing more after June 2001. I'd rather anyone interested got hold of me through my publishers: Scholastic, Transworld, Red Fox, David and Charles, Barrington Stoke, etc.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
I've won two prizes in the USA: the Sydney Taylor Award for My Grandmother's stories and the National Jewish Book Award for Golden Windows. I've also won prizes for my adult poetry, like the HH Wingate Jewish Quarterly Poetry Award and the very first Smith Doorstop Poetry Pamphlet Award jointly with Pauline Stainer.

For a list of Adèle Geras's books in print  click here

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