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Shoo Rayner

How many books have you had published?
Loads….about 70 at the last count

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
No, I was dyslexic and hated writing.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
No. Signwriter, designer, traffic counter, mapmaker, would-be popstar

When was your first book published and what was it called?
Lydia. OUP 1986

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No. OUP were looking for something just like it when I happened to walk into their office. The fact that I'd been writing and re-writing it for four or five years and had been through three other publishers and re working it for Frankfurt and Bologna bookfairs each has nothing to do with it!

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The Ginger Ninja, because that was the book where I looked deepest into the darkesty regions of my character and managed to come up almost sane at the end. I'm also very fond of SuperDad. It's me, my father and me, all rolled up together. As I read them at schools and Libraries I realise he's everyone's dad!
I'm also terrifically proud of my new series with Orchard called Little Horrors. I've been trying to get the "Voice" right for a very long time.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It's perfect. I always measure myself against it and have been trying to re-write it ever since! Otherwise, I'm just stunned by the His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pulman

How long does it take you to write a book?
Up to a lifetime. There are some on the go that have been with me for ever. It's not the typing that takes time it's the gaining experience.

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

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
I work from 8.45 to 6.30 most days. I spend most of that time as an illustrator. When the time comes I put on my writer's hat and work very concentratedly until the story is finished

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
That's where it all happens.

Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?

Do you have an agent?

Why do you like writing for children?
I've now got to the point where I feel confident enough to have a go at a children's novel. If I manage to finish it then I might be tempted to have a go at something adult. It's only recently entered my mind that I might have something to say to an adult market. I think I'm just a slow developer.

How do you get your ideas?
Why is the sky blue?

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
Yes. They come at the same time. I think what I do is to make books with words and pictures. The book is the finished complete thing. You couldn't really take one away from the other. I am now getting more interested in the process of writing, so maybe this will change.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Meet some children. They are different today…very sophisticated. Read a lot of children's books, write a lot, don't be scared to send it in, take all criticism positively, (Editors are usually right) and never, ever give up!

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I prefer to do this through festivals and Libraries. Contact me at

Have you won any awards or prizes?
No, there are no awards for the sort of thing I do! I'm probably one of the most read authors in the country, (I'm certainly one of the most borrowed), but although my readers are at the most important stage of reading development, where they can be put off or enthused for life, no one actually cares too much about reviewing or awarding prizes to series or early reader fiction. The children find it for themselves and read my boks by the bucket load. That's my reward.

For a list of Shoo Rayner's books in print, visit his website at

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