How many books have you had published?
I have 13 books published or about to be published:
For children they are:
The Truth About Babies (OUP)
The Truth About Families (OUP)
You'll Soon Grow, Alex (Orchard)
Roald Dahl - The Champion Storyteller (OUP biography for children 7-14)
Zap and the Alien (OUP)
The Best Pet (Ginn)
Grandma was Eaten by a Shark! (Crocodile Books - poetry for children)
The King Who Lives Next Door (Appletree/NSPCC 2003)
Stop Elephant Stop! (Gullane, June 2004)
Banana Surprise (Pearson Education Oct 2004)
For adults they are:
Landing Your First Job (Kogan Page)
Cheque's in the Post! (Kogan Page)
Passing Psychometric Tests (How To Books July 2002)
Psychometric Tests for Graduates (How To Books 2003)
I also have a huge number of poems published in children's poetry anthologies, mostly with Macmillan.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Not really. English was definitely my favourite subject though, and I read practically every book I could lay my hands on. I started writing stories later on - in my early 20s.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done
I've had various jobs; in banking, sales and marketing. The one I stayed in for the longest was as an advertisement representative for a big London newspaper. I think writing advertising copy must have given me a very good grounding in fiction writing!
When was your first book published and what was it called?
The first book I ever had published was Roald Dahl - The Champion Storyteller, a biography of Roald Dahl for children.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes and no. Oxford University Press had published a series of 6 biographies and were looking for ideas for a second 6. I really wanted to write about Dahl, being a fan, but OUP took a lot of convincing. I spent 2 months writing the most fantastic proposal for the book which included a detailed art brief - something I'd never done before. 6 months later OUP rang up and said they had decided to go ahead with my Dahl book, and please could they have the completed manuscript in 3 weeks time! Talk about jumping in the deep end.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Well 2 favourites. You'll Soon Grow, Alex is my favourite picture book mostly because Russell Ayto's illustrations are so funny. I'm also very proud of my first poetry collection, Grandma Was Eaten By A Shark! It includes some of my best poems, and David Parkin's cartoons are simply amazing.
Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
At the moment I'm enjoying Phillip Pullman's The Northern Lights. I don't get a lot of time to read, so I listen to books on tape, in the car.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. Adult books take 4 - 5 months (around 50,000 words or so).
Children's picture books can take anything from 30 minutes to 5 years! Everything depends on inspiration striking.
Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I always use a computer. I never write anything by hand, except poetry.
Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel
I write every day, sometimes all day long. I take on a lot of freelance writing, so even if I'm not writing a specific book, I'm always working on something.
Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I hate it. Unfortunately I'm virtually incapable of feeling satisfied with anything I've written. It's a big problem because when an editor asks me to send something, instead of simply emailing the file I always end up opening it and rewriting bits and pieces. It's all a matter of confidence I suppose.
Have you ever belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Yes I joined a writer's group years ago, run by the children's poet Mike Johnson. He taught me to write poetry for kids. Currently I belong to several groups - including the wordpool discussion list - where writers support each other and share industry news. But I'd really like to find a group which would give me proper critical feedback about my picture book writing - so far I haven't found one.
Do you have an agent?
I'm represented by Robin Wade at the Robin Wade Literary Agency.
Why do you like writing for children?
Because I can enjoy myself - writing for kids is fun and doesn't feel like work. Also the feedback you get from kids is fantastic.
How do you get your ideas?
I guess from family and friends - things that happen to us, things we talk about. For poetry I sit in the bath and dream up the ideas. Sometimes inspiration hits so hard you can write a whole story in a few minutes - mostly it takes months and months of hard work.
Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first
- the words or the pictures.
I just write the text, however I can always see the pictures in my head (I only wish I wasn't so incapable of drawing them).
What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Have a go, why not? But be prepared for a long slog - it's just about the most difficult market to get into.
Are you willing to do author visits to schools?
Yes, I often visit schools. I offer author talks, poetry workshops, or a combination of the two. Age groups for visits range from 4 - 15 years. I'll also happily talk to adult writer's groups and conferences. I try to stick to Herts, South Beds, Bucks and North London (but will travel further for large events)
There's a lot more information about author visits and details of how to contact me on my web site at www.shavick.com