Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes. At primary school, I used to fill whole exercise books every
time we were asked to write a story
luckily, I had a wonderful teacher
called Mr Sheen who encouraged me to do this and gave me new books to
write in without complaining about how much paper I was wasting! But my
original stories were not written down - I used to make them up in my
head and tell them to my little brother at bedtime.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
To pay the bills, I've programmed computers, helped Engineers with
their maths, looked after and exercised racehorses, sorted potatoes, stacked
straw bales, dusted shelves in a pet shop
all of this eventually
ends up in my books in unrecognizable ways!
When was your first book published and what was it called?
1999 - SONG QUEST, which won the first Branford Boase Award for an
outstanding first novel for children.
The Award also honoured my editor, Barry Cunningham, highlighting the
importance of the editor in guiding a first-time novelist to publication
Barry, it should be noted, was also responsible for guiding JK Rowling
with "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
but mostly because it took me such a long time to realize
that I was a children's writer! (I thought I was a SF writer and spent
many years sending short stories to magazines that sent them back because
they weren't serious enough.)
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The next one, because that's the one I'm not going to ruin when I
write it. It'll be perfect, it'll win all the prizes, it'll be loads better
than all the books I've written so far, it's got a brilliant idea, it's
going to be FUN to write and FUN to read, and I'm not going to get stuck
Oh dear, maybe next time!
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
Difficult, since I keep reading and finding books I like better. When
I was a child, I loved Elyne Mitchell's "Silver Brumby" books.
As an adult, I think the prize has to go to Philip Pullman's "Northern
How long does it take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string?
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I use a computer to do the first draft and then print it out, edit
it, type in the changes, print it out, edit it, type in the changes, and
so on until it's finished
I have to force myself to send it off,
otherwise I'd go on doing this forever since I'm never completely satisfied.
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel
'Routine' and 'writing' are mutually exclusive. I can have an editing
routine, but the actual creation of the first draft comes in fits and
starts. Sometimes 2 chapters a day, sometimes 2 words, sometimes nothing
for 2 weeks.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
Hate it, but it has to be done otherwise no one would ever understand
Do you have an agent?
Yes, Maggie Noach.
Why do you like writing for children?
Because they're the most open-minded and enthusiastic readers! This
means I enjoy a wonderful freedom to write different kinds of books, that
my friends who write books published for adults do not.
How do you get your ideas?
The same way you get yours.
Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first
- the words or the pictures.
but I draw sketches of the fantastic creatures and maps for my
books, which I pin up on my notice board while I'm writing. A proper artist
then takes my sketch-map and turns it into the one that actually ends
up in the book.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
If you twist my arm... Age 10+, South Devon/Cornwall.
You can contact me via my website.
Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes, the Branford Boase Award for "Song Quest"
For a list of Katherine Roberts' books, visit her
Complete list of author profiles