Vanessa Altin

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

It was while I was working as a news reporter in Turkey that I met Kurdish children who had fled the battle for Kobani. Meeting these tots, that had tumbled across the Syrian border, completely changed my life. They were children, just children, and whoever’s fault the appalling civil war in Syria is – it certainly isn’t theirs. They are hungry, homeless and frightened. Separated from their families, living on the street, surviving on scraps. I wrote the book to try and give them a voice, to try and bridge the gap between them and the rest of the world who are either ignoring them or condemning them to slow starvation in a refugee camp.

The Pomegranate Tree

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

This is my first book and as such everything is new to me. I try and read ALL reviews – the ones from schools, those from neighbours and friends – but I think the most important are the ones from strangers and I’m thrilled that, so far, they’ve all been incredibly moving and positive.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

After 15 years on the News-of-the-World I’m happy not to be writing sleaze for a while – but never say never!

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

I didn’t find it hard. Writing it for young adults meant I just endeavoured to keep a clear narrative and didn’t feel I had to use complicated plot devices. However, I’ve been delighted from the feedback from adults who have also read and enjoyed it.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I’ve pretty much always been a writer. I trained as a journalist when I left school and have enjoyed a lengthy career as a news reporter for our national press.

Which author inspires you?

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and I also love Philippa Gregory’s historical novels and JK’s Harry Potter series. I veer between attempting to argue like Elizabeth Bennett, fantasising I’m a Tudor princess and lamenting the fact that there won’t be another term at Hogwarts.

What is your biggest motivator?

To be honest I doubt I would have written a book if I hadn’t met those children. It suddenly became very important to convey their message. I knew I had to do something. I’m a writer and hoped that by showing how strong, funny, decent yet deprived these children are – it might inspire our next generation to make better decisions when they rule the world.

What will always distract you?

My kids – Amelie always wants to sing a song or show me a dance and Rozi often has a drama unfolding in her world.

How much say do you have in your book covers?
I was blessed to be published by BlanketPress – they’re small, independent and fabulous. I retained control over the edit AND got to pick the illustrator and cover the pic. I love Faye’s work and everyone comments on how beautiful the cover is.

As a child were you a great reader?

I was a child in the days before the internet, so reading was one of our pleasures. As a child I loved A Pony in the Luggage, Swallows and Amazons, Pollyanna, Black Beauty and even Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree.

Which book shop is your favourite?

My local independent bookshop – Caxton’s in Frinton, have been brilliant, very supportive, full of advice and have even put my book in their window. However, I must say it was a huge thrill to see my book on the shelves of Waterstones in Colchester – it made me feel like an author!

What can you not resist buying?

Generally shoes.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

No – no rituals. I aim for quiet and undisturbed and am lucky if I can manage that for a few hours. But I did set a word target and aimed to write 3,000 words a day (I rarely managed)!
How many books in your own to be read pile?

On my bedside table I have ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ and Twain’s ‘Joan of Arc’.

What is your current read?
Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen – it’s completely brilliant and I don’t want it to end. I feel like I’m living in that court.

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