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Jean Ure

How many books have you had published?
Not sure. Too lazy to count! Maybe a hundred?

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
Yes! All the time.

Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else have you done/do you still do?
Writing is the only "proper" job I have ever had -if writing can be called a proper job. In the early days, before it earned me enough to live on, I scrubbed floors, waited table, did a bit of typing, a bit of translating, a bit of nursing, worked in a record shop and sold bread in Woollies'.

When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first book was published when I was 16, and still at school. It was called Dance for Two (I wanted to call it Castanets and Ballet Shoes, but was overruled.)

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
Yes -but I was blissfully unaware of it. My father had my aunt type the book out for me (it was originally written in a variety of different-coloured inks in school exercise books) and without telling me he sent a copy to an agent, who agreed to try and place it. This would not happen today! The agent then sent it round no fewer than 13 publishers, before number 13 accepted it for publication. (This also would not happen today. There probably aren't 13 publishers left!) The first I knew was when the agent wrote with the good news, which meant I had all the excitement without any of the Angst.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
This is, of course, an impossible question. Like most authors, I will have to nominate my most recent book, which is Passion Flower.

Which is your favourite children's book written by someone else?
Another impossible question! How can I possibly choose just one? I could say ...Little Women. Or I could say ...A Little Princess. Or I could say ...Winnie the Pooh. Or I Capture the Castle, or Give the Form a Bad Name, or The Woods of Windri or the William books or any of a dozen others!

How long does it take you to write a book?
A book of, say, 40,000 words probably only takes a couple of months to write, but I could well spend a year or even longer dreaming it up -plotting it, planning it, making notes, getting to know the characters. I almost do a first draft in my head before ever setting pen to paper.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I always write first drafts by hand, sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by our six dogs and four cats. To write at a computer would be too much like working in an office.

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
I don't have a set routine, but tend to follow the same pattern of writing all morning, putting work on to computer in the afternoon, then printing out a copy and reading it through in the bath ...which is why many of my first drafts tend to be waterlogged.

Rewriting -do you love it or hate it?
Once I overcome my initial reluctance, I love it. As other authors have commented, the first draft is the hardest part. There is a great sense of satisfaction to be derived from pruning and polishing. And, indeed, fleshing out.

Have you ever belonged to a writers ' group? If so, did it help?
No, I never have; I never felt the need. And I'm not sure that it would have helped. I think I am my own severest critic and am doubtful if I could have tolerated other folk putting their oars in!

Do you have an agent?
Yes, I am with Maggie Noach, who has represented me- excellently! -for over 20 years.

Why do you like writing for children?
I like writing for anyone, not just children! I don't really make any distinction between writing for adults and for young people.

How do you get your ideas?
From all over. Things I see, things I hear, things people tell me. Things I am concerned about, such as the environment and animal rights. Things I dream up. Things I read in other books. Things that just pop into my head from seemingly nowhere. And, of course, things which happened to me when I was young.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first -the words or the pictures.
No, alas, I cannot draw! But I'm now very lucky as I have the same illustrator for all my Harper Collins books -Karen Donnelly, whose drawings are funny and friendly, which is what I hope my books are.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Basically, try to become as a child. Think as a child thinks. See through a child's eyes. Experience a child's feelings. Keep the adult part of yourself in the background -whilst always making sure that you keep a tight hold of the reins. In other words, let the child in you do the speaking while the adult shapes the words.

Are you willing to do author visits to school
I'm happy to visit schools within easy reach of London.
I prefer Years 4-8. and be contacted via email at

Have you won any awards or prizes?
Yes. Skinny Melon & Me, Plague 99, Whistle & I'll Come and One Green Leaf have all won prizes.

To find out more about Jean Ure, visit her website.

For a list of selection of Jean Ure's books in print  click here

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