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Nicola Morgan

How many books have you had published?
About 70, mostly home learning books for young children, including some Thomas the Tank Engine books. The most important ones to me are my teenage novels: Mondays are Red and Fleshmarket and Sleepwalking - October 2004, plus one for a younger age (Chicken Friend - March 2005). I'm also excited about two teenage non-fiction books I've written (Blame My Brain and The Leaving Home Survival Guide - July and August 2005).

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, all the time. I was that really annoying child whose stories were always read out to the class. I also wrote very gloomy poetry to worry my teachers.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?

I used to be an English teacher and then specialised in literacy - first for children with literacy difficulties, and later for all young children. I don’t teach any more but I still run The Child Literacy Centre website.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
1996, I think, a series of 12 early learning books, called I Can Learn. They are still in print and many of them have been best-sellers in the children’s non-fiction list, including a No1 several times

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Well, it took 21 years to get my first NOVEL published, which was what I really wanted to do. But the I Can Learn books came about through a series of coincidences. Being published was a strange combination of huge luck and absolutely enormous determination.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Mondays are Red, because it’s the book everyone has a strong reaction to - they either love it or hate it. I’ve had lovely emails from people about it, on their websites as their favourite book, but I expect other people think it’s far too weird and a load of uncontrolled drivel. I wrote it from the heart and it was great fun to write.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?

At the moment, The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird. It’s a perfect example of how an age-category is utterly irrelevant - it’s written for children of probably 9+, but the story is so powerful that it will work equally well for someone aged 99. It’s also a perfect example of how age-categories become restrictive - teenagers and adults won’t think of reading it because they think it’s a ‘children’s book’, and they will never know what they are missing. Great stories don’t need age categories.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends - a novel is like a baby and seems to take 9 months. I wrote a full-length (55,000 words) non-fiction book in 12 days because it had to be done quickly. That’s The Leaving Home Survival Guide and comes out in July 2005.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?

DEFINITELY a computer! Far too lazy to use a pen, and my hand-writing is rubbish.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
I write when I feel like it or when I need to. But there’s a lot more thinking time than writing time when you’re a writer.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?

LOVE it! The best bit (apart from writing the last paragraph)

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
No, I would hate it.

Have you got an agent?
Yes, thank goodness. I’d have a lot more to worry about if I didn’t.

Why do you like writing for children?

I like writing for TEENAGERS because they have the language skills of adults so you can write stories that are deep and complex, but they still have the free imagination of children so you have huge freedom as a writer.

How do you get your ideas?
By opening my mind to everything that flies around outside me. Ideas are like seeds - and sometimes one lands and I think about it as a story for about two minutes and forget about it. Those are the ideas that don’t work. But every now and then one lands and grows and sprouts and completely takes over. Those are the ideas that become books.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No, not me!

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Read children’s books. Become immersed. Respect children as readers and listeners. And then forget about their age entirely and just tell a story. And don’t ever make the mistake of thinking it’s easier than writing for adults - it’s not!

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes, I love doing school talks, but I have to restrict myself to certain times of year because I now get asked to do a lot of visits. I live near Edinburgh, so Scotland and the North of England are my usual destinations, but I will travel further. I usually speak to Year 6 upwards (P7 in Scotland), though I have a novel out next year for a younger age-range, so will probably speak about that when the time comes. Please visit my website for details and how to contact me. I will also speak to parents/teachers about writing for teenagers and the teenage brain.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
Fleshmarket was a Scottish Arts Council award-winner in 2004.

To find out more about Nicola Morgan's books, visit her website.

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