Tell me what inspired you to write Brightstorm?

I’ve always loved real-life stories of exploration like Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to Antarctica. My initial idea for Brightstorm came from Shackleton’s advert to find his crew. I also love Amelia Earhart for how she influenced so many females to pursue their dreams – she inspired the captain of the main sky-ship in Brightstorm, Harriet Culpepper.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

I did my first writing course 14 years before I was offered a publishing contract for Brightstorm. During these years I went on to do a teaching Degree, a Masters, and brought up three children, but all the time I was chipping away at finding out the type of writer I was and learning more about the art of writing stories.

How long did it take to write?

It took me about a year, around working full time and busy family life, then a year after it was signed by Scholastic until publication.



How many publishers turned you down?

A few passed as they had similar reads on their list, but as soon as it was sent to Scholastic, my now editor, Linas Alsenas, came back very quickly. They publish Mortal Engines and His Dark Materials and felt that Brightstorm would fit perfectly for readers who liked that type of book but may be a bit too young.

What kind of reactions have you had to this book?

The support and enthusiasm from readers, booksellers, bloggers, and educators has been amazing. It feels wonderful to know that children have invested in the world and characters. I feel especially honoured to have been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019!

What can you tell us about your next book?

Where Brightstorm centres on a world of explorers, Wildspark centres on a world of inventors. A secretive guild of inventors have brought spirits of the dead back into the world, harnessing them in animal-like machines. The main character Prue has joined as an apprentice, but she’s on a mission of her own: to bring her brother back to life. To find him, she needs to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be…

Did you celebrate being long listed for the blue peter award & short listed for Waterstones award?

I was in the middle of edits for Wildspark so it was pretty full on, so I raised a glass over my laptop!

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

I do look every now and again as it’s good to keep an eye on what people are reacting to.

Would you ever consider writing for teens or adults?

If a story sprang to me that suited an older audience I definitely would, but also the beauty of writing middle grade is that it’s is a magical age for book discovery – often the stories we read at that age can leave a lasting impact on us, and a part of them stays with us in adulthood. Also, I believe that children’s fiction is a genre for all to enjoy, no matter what age as a great story should work on many levels for all ages.

What did you do before becoming a writer? Or indeed still do?

I still work in my day job in digital marketing four days a week so have to juggle writing time, promotional visits and family time. It’s quite hectic but I love what I do! Before I moved to marketing I was a primary school teacher but I found it really difficult to find writing time as a teacher.

Which author inspires you?

I’m a big fan of Michelle Paver’s children’s and adult fiction. She writes with both beauty and clarity and I always feel absorbed by the worlds she builds. I also love Maria Turtschaninoff’s writing. I would be first in line to but either of their new books!

Which genres do you read yourself?

Any – I’m more drawn to fantasy but anything that grabs me.

What is your biggest motivator?

Writing the best stories I can and meeting children that are engaged in the world and characters and story.

What will always distract you?

Being too tired!

How much say do you have in your book covers?

I’m so fortunate with the team at Scholastic – designer Jamie Gregory is brilliant and he works with the talented illustrator George Ermos on my covers. It’s fantastic to see it develop to the final version and getting an email with the cover saying ‘What do you think?’ is one of the most exciting parts of the process! I’ve been blown away by their covers for Brightstorm and WIldspark.

As a child were you a great reader?

I loved stories in all forms, so both books and films. I wouldn’t say I read voraciously, but if I found a story I loved, I would hold on to it dearly and read it over and over. At my grandmother’s house I would disappear into the attic play room and find all my mum’s old annuals from her childhood and read them over and over.

Which book shop is your favourite?

I live in Sussex and there is a lovely independent called the Steyning Bookshop – I’ve done lots of school events with them. It’s a lovely shop that looks like a cottage from the outside. Outside of my local area I have to say Waterstones Durham, of course! It has the MOST lovely and enthusiastic bookseller I’ve ever come across…

What can you not resist buying?

The latest Paver or Pullman book!

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

I would love to have a few fancy rituals and a lovely writing shed to set the scene, but in truth my life is hectic so if I can seek a quiet space among my house of teens it’s a miracle. So it’s just balance the laptop wherever and whenever I can, get my head down, and get on with it!

How many books in your own to be read pile? (Let’s have an honest count please)

On my physical pile ten. On my ‘resisting to buy because I have to read the others first’ pile I have probably in excess of a hundred!

What is your current read?

We are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo. It’s a fabulous absorbing world which instantly grabbed me and was exactly the next book I was looking for and I’d highly recommend it! Next I’ll be reading A Witch Come True by James Nicol. I can’t wait to immerse myself back in the wonderful witchy world he created.

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