How many books have you had published?
I've had over 40 published so far (including two for adults) and there are more in various parts of the pipeline. The children's books include fiction, faction and non-fiction. I've also written six scripts for children's animation.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I hated English lessons at school because we had to write boring essays about things like teapots and read books I didn't like. But I made up stories in my head all the time (sometimes in the English lesson if it was really boring). I'd watch something on TV that wasn't all that good and rewrite it in my head to be more exciting or make up different stories using the same characters.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
I started as a teacher but, as soon as my first son was born, I discovered that I was much happier being a mum. Then, as the children grew up, I realised that I wanted to be a writer and that's what I've been doing ever since. I've now branched out into running the Word Pool and designing websites for other authors as well as writing. The three activities go together well and give me plenty of variety.
When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first book was A Special Child in the Family but it wasn't for children. It was for parents of sick or disabled children and it was published in 1990. My first children's book to be published was The Hospital Highway Code - that came out in 1994.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
A Special Child went to eleven other publishers before Sheldon Press accepted it. The Hospital Highway Code was only rejected once before Macmillan took it.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The more books I write, the harder that question becomes. I love all the Pony-Mad Princess books - they've been great fun to write and taken me back to my pony-mad childhood. But The Bear Father Christmas Forgot is special too because it introduced me to the delightful world of picture book writing. Out of the non-fiction books, my favourite is Spectacular Special Effects as the subject is fascinating and the research was great fun.
Which is your
favourite children's book written by someone else?
As a child, I loved Winnie the Pooh, the Just So Stories and the Famous Five. But, as an adult, I find it impossible to choose between Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett and JK Rowlings' Harry Potter books..
How long does
it take you to write a book?
That depends. After an idea's spent weeks brewing in my head, a picture book will take a day or two to get down on paper while a novel may take a month or more, depending on length. But that's only the first draft - the rewriting usually takes several more weeks.
With a non-fiction book, the research often takes longer than the writing, especially if it's a subject I didn't know much about at the beginning. As I research, the book starts to form itself in my head which makes life easier once I actually sit down at my computer.
Do you use a computer or
write first drafts long hand?
I've got a laptop now which is great as I can write anywhere I want.
I usually write on a computer but I sometimes go back to a pencil and paper to play around with ideas when I get stuck.
I've got a laptop now which is great as I can write anywhere I want.
Do you have a
writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
In theory, I have a writing routine but I'm easily distracted so I don't often stick to it. I work better if I write for a while before I look at the post and the e-mails, and I have to be very strong minded to stop myself exploring the Internet all day. When I'm writing a novel, I try to make myself to write at least 500 words a day.
I usually play music while I'm writing because it shuts out all the other distracting sounds and helps me concentrate. At one time, I used the Harry Potter music and the music from Lord of the Rings, but I'm currently using the soundtracks for Doctor Who.
Rewriting - do
you love it or hate it?
That depends how well it's going but on the whole, I love it (especially when I've finished the first draft so I know I've got the whole story down on paper).
Have you ever
belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
I belong to a brilliant writing group which has really helped me. It's great being able to get constructive criticism on a piece of work which won't go right and to be able to talk to people who really understand the ups and downs of the writing life.
Have you got an
I sold my first book myself, but I was then with an agent for almost 10 years. Eventually we amicably parted company as I'd moved into scriptwriting which she doesn't handle. I now work with Anne Finnis for my fiction books but handle my non-fiction and scripts myself.
Why do you like
writing for children?
Because it's enormous fun and because I've never quite grown up so I'm writing the books I like to read.
How do you get
Some just pop into my head when I'm not expecting them. Others I have to work hard to find. I often use brainstorming to come up with lots of different ways to explore a topic, and a story idea may lurk at the back of my mind for years before it grows enough to be usable.
Sometimes the initial idea comes from someone else. Usually that's a publisher asking me to write a non-fiction book to slot into a series. But with The Pony-Mad Princess, Anne Finnis phoned to say she had a brilliant idea for a series and did I want to turn to write it. I'm really pleased I said 'yes'.
I thought of the cats in the Amy Wild books came years before I thought of Amy herself. For a long time, they were just characters without a story but adding a girl who can talk to animals brought the whole idea to life.
Do you draw the pictures
for your books? For funny nonfiction, I often think of the cartoons
and write descriptions of them for the artist to draw.
I'd love to, but I can't. One of the most exciting parts of writing picture books is seeing the characters come alive in the pictures.
For funny nonfiction, I often think of the cartoons and write descriptions of them for the artist to draw.
What advice would you offer
anyone who wants to write for children?
Write what you like rather than what you think the market wants. If you're not interested in the story or the topic, you can't expect any one else to be either.
Have you won any awards?
Princess Ellie to the Rescue was picked as one of the top fifty reads of 2004 as part of the judging for the Red House Children's Book Awards.
The Lamb-a-roo was shortlisted for the Stockport Schools Book Awards 2007.
Are you willing to do author
visits to schools?
I like visiting schools to show children how a book develops from the original idea to the final volume. However, I don't like to spend too long traveling so prefer to stick to southern Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. You can contact me at Diana@wordpool.co.uk.
You can find out more about Diana Kimpton's books on her website.