Tell me what inspired you to write for children?
Kick-starting a child’s passion for reading or writing is definitely a huge inspiration for me. I was book-obsessed when I was younger so the thought of being that author for a child is something that drives me to write and research my stories as best as possible.

How hard was it to get your first book published?
I have the privilege of working for the Writers’ & Artists’ website so I was aware of the different routes into publication, but I knew that finding a literary agent was the path I wanted to take. I wasn’t confident in my writing, so I sent the story out into the world to see if it could be something. I sent my story to agents in batches and got standard rejections as well as a couple of full manuscript requests. My now agent Kirsty got in touch to say that she loved my writing, but didn’t think that the story – in terms of plot and character – was working as well as it could. We had many discussions before agreeing to work together, but the story would not be what it is without Kirsty.

How long did it take to write?
The first draft took a couple of months, but I’m very keen to stress that the first draft was a completely different story. Although Bastien and the bookish elements were there from the beginning, there were ghosts and other magical aspects. It was only really working with Kirsty that the story found its shape.

How many publishers turned you down?
I believe that Usborne were the only publisher who offered for my book in the end. The submission process is stressful, as it is completely out of your control, but remember that you only need one publisher to say yes. I feel extremely lucky because as soon as I talked to the brilliant Usborne team, I knew that I wanted to become one of their authors. My editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker (and the rest of the Usborne team!) are genuinely two of the most incredible humans on this planet and I hope I can work with them forever!

What kind of reactions have you had to your books?
It’s been wonderful to read reviews from children. They are so brilliantly honest and their reactions are what I live for. I know that not everyone in the entire world can like the same book. Stories are subjective, but it has been great to hear that readers are enjoying the pace of my book. I wanted it to be a fast-paced adventure with humour and heart so fingers crossed I have achieved that!

What can you tell us about your next book? Is it book 2 in the series? Or something different?
Yes, it is indeed book two in this series so you will be reunited with Bastien, Theo, Alice and most of the familiar faces from the first book. I am currently in the middle of editing so there’s not a lot that I can tell you right now other than that there will be new characters, secrets will be revealed and stakes will be raised!

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say waterstones website?
I confess that I ask my partner to read out online reviews, as I don’t think it is productive for an author to go looking for themselves on Amazon or Goodreads. Like I said before, stories are subjective and putting work out there means that the story is no longer yours. You can’t control the responses you receive, but at the same time I don’t think it is a bad thing to look after your own mental health. It’s a balance.
My partner Adam is under strict instructions to read me reviews that have constructive criticism or include important points that I need to consider, revise and/or do better on. As a debut writer, I’m aware that I can always improve and do better and that is something I actively welcome.
Having said that, the reviews that I have read, especially those on the Waterstones website, are so generous and well thought-out. I’m grateful that anyone would read my book, let alone have an opinion on it!

Would you ever consider writing for teens or adults?
Absolutely. I have had an adult writing project simmering away for a couple of years now and I also have a few YA ideas that are lurking in the depths of my Google Drive. I never throw anything away, so here’s hoping I might be able to share them one day!

What did you do before becoming a writer? Or indeed still do?
I have worked in publishing for the last five and a half years for the Writers’ & Artists’ website team. I am responsible for programming all of our events as well as the day-to-day running of the website, which involves creating articles and blogs, managing competitions and offering advice on publishing to writers.

Which author inspires you?
So many. Am I allowed more than a few? Katherine Rundell, Fatou Diome, Alice Zeniter, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Katherine Woodfine, Sally Rooney, Zora Neale Hurston, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Emma Carroll…the list goes on!

Which genres do you read yourself?
I read everything and anything. If I like the sound of a story, I’m all in! I tend not to be dictated by genres

What is your biggest motivator?
My biggest motivation is that I love writing. It has always been my greatest hobby, to sit down and just make up a story.

What will always distract you?
It would have to be not having enough time OR reading. My TBR pile will always be there to distract me!

How much say do you have in your book covers? Your current book cover is fantastic!
Usborne are brilliant at sharing cover roughs well in advance with me so that I can share my thoughts. The designer, Katherine Millchope works with Heloise Mab, my wonderful illustrator, and they produce such beautiful work together.
As someone who cannot even draw a stick person correctly, I am chuffed my book has such a wonderful cover. I am not the type of writer who lingers too much on a character’s physical appearance; I love giving just enough detail for readers to form their own description in their mind.

As a child were you a great reader?
Absolutely. My mum had a part time job as a librarian before I was born and both she, and my dad, always encouraged me to read. If we had a couple of quid to spend on a treat, I would always wander to the books section in Woolworths or Smiths, and see what worlds I could travel to with the money I had. My mum, to this today, insists that I taught myself to read. I find that highly unlikely, but the bookworm gene is definitely strong.

Which book shop is your favourite?
Fiona, you are excellent at asking impossible questions! I’ve recently moved to Leeds and must say I am in love with the HUGE Waterstones in the city centre. I also can’t not give a shoutout to Waterstones Durham for being the HUB of the community. My partner Adam and I ALWAYS visit bookshops whenever we are on holiday. My most favourite bookshops are Chicken & Frog in Brentwood, Capitol Hill Books in Washington D.C, Brattle Bookshop in Boston, and The Sanctuary Bookshop in Lyme Regis.

What can you not resist buying?
Apart from books? I have a bit of an obsession with buying glasses and plates. I have more wine glasses than one person should own.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?
I have no rituals as I don’t have any writing days. As I have a full-time job, I write in the cracks of each day. I carve out time for myself on a weekend when I have edits to focus on. The only thing that might count as a ritual is having a good cup of coffee by my side!

How did you find life during UK lockdowns?
I found it quite tough, to be honest. I suffer from intrusive thoughts a lot and naturally, they were working overtime! I did find the time, however, to prioritise myself in a way I haven’t been able to before. During the lockdowns, I had a therapist and started doing regular exercise. I think it allowed me to reset things, in a strange, but good sort of way.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t the type of writer who was super productive in lockdown…

How many books in your own to be read pile? (Let’s have an honest count please)
An HONEST count would probably be about 50+. I have books on my shelves that I bought several years ago and still haven’t got round to reading. Not because they no longer interest me, but because I am always buying more.

What is your current read?
My current reads are a mixed bag. I’ve just finished reading Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson and am currently have Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tocarczuk, Hitting A Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston, and The PeculiarTale of the Tentacle Boy by Richard Pickard

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