Jo Cotterill

Tell me what inspired you to write about your latest book?

My most recently published book is Looking at the Stars,

LATS high res

and I was inspired to write it over seven years ago when watching the news of the refugees pouring out of Afghanistan and Iraq. I wondered how it would feel to have to leave your home and the place you knew best with pretty much nothing but the clothes you were wearing. And what would it be like to be separated from your family and not know if you’d see them again? Of course, the book seems especially timely at the moment, what with the awful pictures coming from Syria… My newest book, out next February, is called Electrigirl,


and is about a 12-year-old superhero! You couldn’t get more different!

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say waterstones website?

I do read online reviews, yes. It can be painful (if the reviewer hated it) but most of the time it’s so wonderful to see readers connecting with my work and really ‘getting it’.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

I don’t think so. As far as I’m concerned, any topic is suitable for a children’s book as long as it’s handled in the right way.

How hard do you find it to keep within an age category?

It’s become easier over time. When I started out writing, I didn’t really understand developmental stages. I wanted to write books that could be read by 8-18s! Nowadays I have a much clearer understanding of what publishers want for different age groups.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I was an actor for five years, and then a teaching assistant, and then an English GCSE teacher. I loved all my jobs! I only gave up teaching because I got a big contract for six books (the Sweet Hearts series) and I am so glad that now I get to write all the time!

Which author inspires you?

Malorie Blackman. Such an inspirational writer and person. But I also have lots of writer friends who are all simply amazing, because writing can be really tough at times and I really respect them for slogging on through the bad times.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Mostly contemporary realism. I’m not keen on fantasy unless it’s a bit daft, like Terry Pratchett. I love a really good gritty Young Adult book like Eden by Joanna Nadin or Still Falling by Sheena Wilkinson, but I also adore the boom in 8-12s fiction at the moment, with really beautiful stories like Rooftoppers and The Girl Who Walked On Air.

What is your biggest motivator?

Inner ambition and high standards. I feel guilty if I’m not working. And I am addicted to seeing my name on a new book cover. So that keeps me going!

What will always distract you?


How much say do you have in your book covers?

It depends on the publisher. I’m having a lot of say in the Electrigirl covers, which is wonderful. On other books over the years, I’ve been allowed to make suggestions but the publisher hasn’t always taken them on board! Basically, it’s their final decision and as an author you have to accept that sometimes you won’t get your way…!

As a child were you a great reader?

Yes. Voracious, from the age of three.

Which book shop is your favourite?

Blackwells in Oxford. Though I stay out of bookshops most of the time because I know I will end up bankrupting myself.

What can you not resist buying?

Books (obviously) and craft materials. I’m a very enthusiastic paper crafter. I try to stay away from Hobbycraft for the same reason as above!

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Not really. Though if I’m properly engrossed in my writing, it’s not uncommon for me to forget about lunch until 2.30pm. My writing time is so limited (because I have young children) that I do try to cram in as much as I can. I love having the house to myself!

How many books in your own to be read pile?

Oh goodness, that’s a telling question. Um…twelve? Mostly by author friends. There’s never enough time to read!

What is your current read?

At the time of writing this, I’ve just started I Let You Go by my friend Clare MacIntosh. It’s an adult book – so you’ve caught me out because I don’t usually read books for adults, much less crime thrillers! But this is Clare’s debut novel and it’s just won the Richard and Judy summer book club, and is a Sunday Times bestseller, and I really MUST read it! Plus, it apparently has a shocking twist in the middle that everyone says is amazing. I’m spending all of the first few chapters trying to guess what it is!

After I’ve finished Clare’s book, I want to read The Wolf Wilder by the wonderful Katherine Rundell.

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