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Linda Newbery

How many books have you had published?
11 for teenagers, 6for younger children, and several more on the way.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes, I was always writing, but usually very secretively in my bedroom. I was forever starting stories and then leaving them because I didn't know how to get past Chapter 3. At one time there must have been a lot of Chapters 1, 2 and 3 in my wardrobe. I wish I'd kept them, but they got thrown out.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I've worked in offices, in a hotel, with horses, in the USA as counsellor on a summer camp, and as an English teacher. At last, I'm a full-time writer!

When was your first book published and what was it called?
It was called Run with the Hare and was published in 1988. It's a teenage novel about animal rights.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes - I had several near misses before Harper Collins accepted it. It can be depressing to receive a rejection slip or letter, but some of the rejections I had were quite encouraging, helping me to keep going. But it's still VERY difficult to get a first book accepted - one of my best friends, an excellent writer, is sending her first book out at the moment, and has to wait months and months while editors make up their minds. I'm sure she'll succeed but it does take a lot of determination and even an obstinate refusal to give in.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Difficult to answer that - I'd have to say the book I'm writing at present, which is going to be my best yet! Of my published books, I'm particularly fond of The Nowhere Girl, which has a Normandy setting, and of Whistling Jack, which was fun to write and has lovely illustrations by Anthony Lewis.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
My current favourites are Troy by Adele Geras, See You Thursday by Jean Ure, and Postcards from No Man's Land, by Aidan Chambers.

How long does it take you to write a book?
When I'm working on a book every day, it will take me about two months to write the first draft of a teenage novel - that would usually be about 60,000 words. But that is only the first stage. I like to spend a lot of time revising, both before and after discussing the book with an editor. The whole process will take about a year. For my shorter books, like Star's Turn, the time involved is much less - about a week for the first draft.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I usually work straight on to the computer, unless I'm writing in bed, which can be a very good place to write. I always keep a notebook handy to write down ideas, sentences or just phrases. With a long book, I work on the computer for months before printing out a paper copy - this means that I can do limitless revisions. But when I get to the stage of printing out, I read that very carefully at least twice, making lots more changes.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
The most important routine I have is to get out of bed at 6.30, go straight to my study and work for at least an hour. I will try to do this even if I'm going out for the day. Missing a day makes it very difficult to pick up the story, and I try to avoid it. Usually, when working at a first draft, I try to write at least 1,500 words every day.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I love it - it's so important. I find it less stressful than working on a first draft, because I know that the book isn't going to fall to bits in the middle, and everything I do at that stage will be an improvement. A lot of my best ideas come at this stage and the rewriting certainly makes an enormous difference to the finished book.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
I've never belonged to a group, though I did go on several courses when I was starting to write - for instance an Arvon course in Devon, where one of the tutors was Michelle Magorian, and one of the other course members was Theresa Tomlinson. At that time I was working for the London Borough of Bromley as a teacher, and the English advisor used to run marvellous weekend courses for teachers who wanted to write - we had tutors like Wendy Cope and Michele Roberts, before they were as famous as they are now. It was tremendously helpful to work with published writers and to get advice and encouragement from them.

Do you have an agent?
Yes - Maggie Noach. I've been with her for a year and I hope to stay with her for a long time! It's so important to have a good relationship with your agent, and Maggie is really interested in what I write - she doesn't just regard it as a product.

Why do you like writing for children?
For several reasons. I started writing for teenagers because I like the scope offered by a longish teenage novel, and I like immersing myself in the widening world and moral and personal dilemmas of adolescence. On the other hand, one of the unexpected pleasures of writing is to go into primary or infant schools to meet and talk to young children and to see how enthusiastically they respond to stories and poems. And I love getting a story back from the publisher with the art-work added -for example with The Cat with Two Names, illustrated by Anthony Lewis. It was lovely to turn the pages and see what Anthony had added to the story.

How do you get your ideas?
All sorts of ways! For Ice Cat, I have to thank my husband - one winter's evening when we were cooking, the cat-flap opened and in came our little black cat, Hamish, dripping wet snow on the carpet. My husband looked at him and said, "Ice cat," and my story came from that. More usually, it's a place, real or imaginary - The Nowhere Girl and Flightsend both started with places, and so does the book I'm writing now.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
No, I'd love to be able to illustrate my own books, but I'm not good enough. I can draw a bit, and sometimes with a young story I draw a sketch to show the artist what I have in mind. I did this with The Cat with Two Names, and was very pleased that Anthony Lewis has done a much better drawing than mine which uses the idea.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
1. Read a lot of the best books published today.
2. Don't think writing for children is an easy way to get into print.
3. Get on with it.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I am happy to visit schools for talks or writing workshops. I will work with any age group from year 3 up to sixth-form. I'm based in South Northamptonshire.

contact me by email: at L.Newbery@btinternet.com

For a list of Linda Newbery's books in print  click here

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