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Andrew Melrose

How many books have you had published? 
I have twenty odd books in print, another with a publisher now and one on my typewriter. I also write films. I have a series of 15 running on ITV, called The Storykeepers and have a commission for another 15 as well as accompanying books.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I wrote songs mostly. I played in bands for a long time from the age of 14 so I had a platform for them. I still write songs and wrote some for a film recently. I once wrote my own sick note excusing myself from music lessons though. It said, "I can't be in today because he's not feeling well." Hopefully, my riting has been and got changed.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else do you do?
I'm an academic. As Director of Writing for Children, at King Alfred's, University College Winchester, I run the only Writing for Children MA in the world. So I write and teach writing for would be writers or writers who want to learn more about their craft. You can write to me at a.melrose@wkac.ac.uk for information.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
It was published in 1996 and was called Breakout. It was a novel based on a film I wrote - called Breakout, funnily enough.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No, I had a commission to write a film series called The Storykeepers so the book deal came from there. Mind you it's not been easy getting my last book published - my agent didn't like it.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
My favourite is a book called Starlight Escape. I managed to get the "nativity" and the story of "Remus and Romulous" in it, which was a lot of fun to write and I enjoyed playing around with other stories. I'm also thinking about writing a new series called Parry Hotter, it's about a girl who loses her parents and...

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else? 
Can't You Sleep Little Bear by Martin Waddell - isn't that everyone's favourite? Oh and I like Starlight by Judy Waite because I watched it grow in to a novel. My children love the Worst Witch stories, so do I.

How long does it take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string? If it takes a man a week to walk a fortnight, how long does it take him to scratch his wooden leg until it bleeds?

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I use a computer straight off because I can't read my own handwriting.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
I try to set time aside but life and jobs take over. As an academic, I have to keep odd hours. However, the important thing is to know what you are going to write when you sit down. That way the time you write doesn't really matter. It's what you write that counts.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I love to hate it but do it ad nauseum (is that how you spell it?)

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
No, I never have, but I have written films with a writing team, which is great fun and I have just written a book with Judy Waite which was fun too

Do you have an agent?
Yes, Sheila Watson, Watson, Little Ltd

Why do you like writing for children?
I don't, scruffy people, all of them... all children smell and have nits and make mess and and and...

How do you get your ideas?
I lift one leg in the air then try to lift the other. Sometimes I stand on my head but it leaves footprints on my face. Other times I swim in the sea. Living in Brighton allows this. Yesterday I had a cup of Earl Gray tea. That seemed to work. Actually, I don't swim in the sea, it's too cold. Sometimes I go for a run, though. I don't get ideas from that because I'm always too puffed out to worry that I don't have any ideas. Actually, I've just had an idea...

Do you draw the pictures for your books? 
I can't draw. Words are everything to me. I like serendipity. A lot of my ideas come from serendipity (should I have said that in the last question?)

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Wear a clothes peg on your nose and never wash under your arms. No, seriously, research the style and age group you want to write for and experiment with the conventions, such as reading age etc. But remember you have to have a story. No story, no book, it's as simple as that. However, you could also come on my Masters course and learn your craft with others. Email me on  a.melrose@wkac.ac.uk  and I will give you details.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools? 
I don't really have the time for this.

Have you won any awards or prizes? 
I have my bronze medal for swimming.

For a list of scripts and books by Andrew Melrose, click here

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