How many books have you had published?
I have fourteen books in print, and at least ten in the hands of my agent.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Not exactly for fun, but I did enjoy writing projects. I started on a novel when I was around nine, about a girl who had a large family (I was an only child and desperately wanted brothers and sisters). I used to get up very early and write secretly. Then my mum found out why I was so sleepy at the end of the day and stopped me doing it - so that was a book that never got finished.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
When I was sixteen, I won two painting scholarships, so went to art school. I taught for a while, working with mentally handicapped children in a Rudolf Steiner school. I then sold my first short story to a woman's magazine - the first of many. Then, while my children were young, I ran a one-woman design company, producing collaged felt puppet theatres and fabric playhouses and even some flying saucers!!
When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first published book was The Time Tree. It came out in 1989.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Very! I had been writing stories for my children and their friends, but didn't study the market (a big mistake!) My early children's stories were more like adult short stories - the form I was used to - and as such, not very publishable. The Time Tree, which started life as Anne, I completely re-wrote, dividing it into chapters, and it was picked up by Walker Books (but I still had a lot to learn).
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
My favourite book at present is To Summon a Spirit. It's set in the part of London where I live, and it's a time-slip story about an intense friendship between two very different girls -one a wealthy, middle class Victorian and the other an impoverished mixed race, twenty-first century Londoner. It's a book you can read on many levels, and it has a surprising ending which I was rather pleased with. I'm also very fond of The Game, a futuristic fantasy, again set in London. It's a book inspired by my loathing of shops that play radios indiscriminately. Music and sport are OK, but once, while shopping for fashion shoes with my daughter, I heard details, among the usual ads and snatches of music, of a particularly horrible case of child abuse. We both felt quite sick and left without buying. Trivialising everything in this way desensitises people, and I find it quite frightening ...
Which is your favourite children's book written
by someone else?
I have so many favourites! As a child, it was John Masefield's The Box of Delights - very mysterious, atmospheric and scary. Among contemporary writers, I love Philip Pullman's Northern Lights and its sequel, The Subtle Knife.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Apart from picture book texts, I've never finished anything within a month. Junior novels are like any other novel and can take up to a year or more to complete.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts
Both. I write a great deal on the back of old computer print-outs, and find using a soft pencil frees the imagination. But the first draft will always end up on the computer.
Do you have a writing routine or just write
when you feel like it?
When I'm working on a book, I get down to business between 10-11am and work until I'm done, but with numerous breaks because I'm physically twitchy! I find starting something new horrendous, and will make endless excuses not to begin.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I rarely re-write, but I do edit all the time. Once the material's there, I enjoy working into it
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group?
If so, did it help?
I did once, and used it to discipline myself to complete a 350 page adult novel! I deliberately fooled myself into believing that I couldn't attend the group unless I'd written a fixed number of words (which of course was nonsense, nobody minded). It wouldn't work a second time, though. I do find writing a much too private business to share - except, of course, when work is finished.
Have you got an agent?
Yes, I've had three. For the short stories I was represented by Curtis Brown. When I began working on children's books, my agent was Rosemary Bromley of Juvenilia. My present agent is Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd, with whom I'm well pleased.
Why do you like writing for children?
Because I like children, I suppose. And the standard of children's literature, at present, is very high, so it's a challenging and exciting field to work in.
you get your ideas?
From reading, especially newspapers, studying people, talking to children, and getting angry about things I'd like to change. I'm also influenced by my husband who's a great Sci-Fi enthusiast!
Do you draw the pictures for your books?
As I was trained as an artist, I still draw and tend to think visually, but I would never dream of offering to illustrate my own books. There's so much talent out there, and every story is different, so it's great to have them interpreted by so many different people and styles.
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Try your work out on real children, preferably NOT ones you know. And don't lose faith in yourself, but persevere - after all, Harry Potter was turned down by an awful lot of publishers!!
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
I certainly do author visits, but try to restrict the number, otherwise I wouldn't write any books! I've worked with schools and school groups in Central, North and East London. I also have connections with Cornwall (the Falmouth/Truro area) as my daughter lives there (I did a book launch in 1999 at Constantine village school and several sessions in Spring 2000 for a festival at Penryn Junior School.
Sophie Hicks (agent) at Ed Victor Ltd. 020-7304-4111
Walker Books (Jacks Freeman, publicity) 020 7793 0909
The publicity department at Red Fox 020 8231 6800
You can find out more about Enid Richmont on her website.