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Stephen Potts

How many books have you had published?
Three so far, with another, The Ship Thief, due out in September 2004, and a fifth, Abigail's Gift, the year after that.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
No; but I read - always and everywhere.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
I've never earnt my living that way, though I still dream it might happen some day. I'm a doctor in my day job, working in a big NHS hospital in Edinburgh.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
Hunting Gumnor, in 1999

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Oh yes. It took years and years. I still keep a thick folder of rejection letters, all saying No in many different ways.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Compass Murphy, my most recent book, because of the scale of the adventures I gave my hero - adventures I'd like to have myself.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
My most favourite children's books I read as an adult: Treasure Island and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. I especially enjoyed Kidnapped after travelling around the highlands and islands of Scotland, where it is set.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Far too long - a time measured in years - though I am getting faster.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I write first drafts in a hurried scribble no-one else can read (a bit like being a doctor!). I then revise while entering it onto the computer, and go through as many more drafts as it takes to get it right.

Do you have a writing routine or just write when you feel like it?          
I try to write on Fridays, my one day off, but usually writing has to be fitted in whenever I can. And sometimes, when I do have time, I just don't feel like it, so I head off for a walk, with a notebook. I usually come back with the next scene roughed out. 

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
Both. The process is painful at times, but when I see the improvements that come, I know it has been worthwhile.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
No - but I have been to lots of workshops, and that definitely helped.

Have you got an agent?
Yes - the excellent PFD, who gave me first break.

Why do you like writing for children?
Because they have such a natural appetite for the kind of stories I want to write - pacy, emotional, and full of adventure. Adults read my books and enjoy them too, which tells me that appetite doesn't fade as readers get older.

How do you get your ideas?
I don't - my ideas get me. They come along and kidnap me when I'm doing something else.

Do you draw the pictures for your books?
No. I have no talent for drawing, and I'm very happy to leave it to others.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Read widely and deeply; go to workshops - don't hide away; and grow a thick skin, for rejection is inevitable (ask J.K. Rowling!). If your writing is good enough, and you believe in it enough to persist in the face of repeated disappointment, you will make it........ eventually. So persist, persist, persist.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes, and I already do, under the Writers in Scotland Scheme. I'd consider going to Northern England too. Age group 8-12. Contact me via my agent or the WISS.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
Not yet, but I've been nominated twice for the Carnegie Medal (Hunting Gumnor, 2000; Tommy Trouble, 2001) and short-listed for the inaugural Branford-Boase Award (Hunting Gumnor, 2000) and Askews Prize (Compass Murphy, 2002)

For a list of Stephen Pott's books in print  click here

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