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Tessa Krailing

How many books have you had published?
I've lost count. Over forty, I think. 

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, all the time.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I worked for six years with the BBC, mainly as a TV drama production secretary. Then I trained as a teacher and taught for 15 years before I became a full-time children's writer.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first book was A Dinosaur called Minerva which was published in 1980.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes. It went to about ten publishers before it was taken by Scholastic.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Probably A Dinosaur called Minerva because it was my first and I had such fun writing it.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
My favourite classic is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and my favourite modern children's book is Goodnight, Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. 

How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on the length. It takes about three months for a long one and three weeks for a short one.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
A computer. I can't read my own writing.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?          
I try to write every day between 8am and 11.30am.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I love it! The hard bit is getting the first draft down on paper - the fun bit is knocking it into shape. It's very satisfying - that's where the craft comes in.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Yes, and it helped enormously. You get so much feedback and constructive criticism. But you have to be careful that you don't start writing to please the group rather than yourself.

Have you got an agent?
Yes, because I'm not a business person and am clueless about contracts, foreign rights etc.

Why do you like writing for children?
Partly because I've never grown up and partly because you have far more freedom to be creative in the children's fiction market.

How do you get your ideas?
I sit quietly and wait for them to come bubbling up to the surface. There's masses of them buried deep in my unconscious, but sometimes they take a long time to start bubbling. 

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No. I wish I could but I'm not good enough as an artist.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Do your market research and then have a go. And don't give up if your first attempt fails. You need stickability to succeed.

Sadly Tessa died in October 2003 - we've left her profile online as we are sure many people will still want to know how she tackled her books.

For a list of Tessa Krailing's books in print  click here

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