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Chris Wormell

How many books have you had published?
About ten written and Illustrated by me, but I’ve illustrated many others – mostly adult.
I have drawers stuffed with stories ‘waiting to be discovered’.

Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I made picture books as a child, along with my brothers and sisters. It was a sort of family hobby.

Have you always earned your living as a writer?
No, and I don’t now. I earn most of my living as a commercial illustrator, working for design and advertising.

My first job on leaving school was to sweep up litter – I was a road sweeper. For a number of years I worked at all kinds of temporary jobs earning just enough money to allow me to paint between jobs. I never went to college. Some of the jobs I did were: factory worker, postman, handyman, removal man, labourer, washer upper, cleaner and deliveryman. It was easy to get temporary work in those days. It’s not so easy now. Eventually I became a part time social worker. I enjoyed this job more than all the others and stuck at it for a number of years. I didn’t begin to earn a living from my art until I was 26.

When was your first book published and what was it called
In 1990 I had a book called An Alphabet of Animals published, this was the first book that was all my idea. It was a book of pictures with a very simple text – A for Alligator, etc.

The first story I had published was Blue Rabbit and Friends in 1997.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?
No, I was lucky; I had an agent and also had contacts with a number of publishers already, through illustrating other books.

I got started in the illustration business by getting hold of a book of publisher’s addresses and writing to them and sending them my work. After six months of writing I eventually got some work.

Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
The one I’m going to write next. It’ll be the best!

Which is your favourite children’s book written by someone else?
When I was young I loved the books of Beatrix Potter, and my favourite was The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. When I was a little older I loved The Wind in the Willows. And when I was a little older still I discovered The Hobbit. I still enjoy reading all of these books. The books I most enjoy reading to my own children are the stories of Roald Dahl.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It might take a week, it might take three months, you can never tell. Doing the pictures generally takes a few months.

Do you use a computer or write first drafts long hand?
I scribble out my first draft – usually with tiny thumbnail sketches – in my sketchbook. Then, when I think I’m getting somewhere, type it up on a computer before I forget what I have written - my sketchbook scribblings are almost unreadable!

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when you feel like it?
No routine, and mostly I don’t feel like it. Writing is hard.

Rewriting - do you love it or hate it?
I love it, if I’ve thought of a better way of writing something, but if I haven’t (which is mostly) I hate it.

Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group?
No.

Do you have an agent?
An illustrator’s agent, but they deal with publishing too.

Why do you like writing for children?
I love children’s books. Also, I can illustrate the things I like to draw.

How do you get your ideas?
All kinds of ways, sometimes I think of a character, sometimes I think of the first line of a story and wonder where it might lead. Sometimes an interesting title occurs to me and I think of how I could write a story to fit the title. I might be somewhere that stirs my imagination – a beach, a forest, a mountain – and I’ll start to wonder who would live in such a place. Someone might say something to me that starts an idea off, and I’ll think about it for a bit and maybe a story will come along, maybe not.

Ideas come in all sorts of ways, but they never seem to come when you sit and try to think of them.

Do you draw the pictures for your books? If so, which comes first - the words or the pictures.
Yes. Usually I work on both at the same time when I’m working on a rough draft and sketches, but I have to have the words written before I can work on the finished pictures.

What advice would you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
Always write for yourself. Write stories that interest and excite you, don’t try to write something just because you think someone else might like it. If it doesn’t excite you, it certainly won’t excite anyone else.

Are you willing to do author visits to schools?

I am willing to do school visits. Any area of the country, so long as I can get there and back again on the day, by train. I live in London. It’s probably best to organise things like this through my publisher’s publicity dept. – Random House Children’s Books.

Have you won any awards or prizes?
My first children’s book, An Alphabet of Animals, won the Ragazzi prize at Bologna. Two Frogs won a Smarties bronze medal in 2003

For a list of Chris Wormell's books in print  click here

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