Archive for September, 2012

Kids bringing stories to life

I’m often asked at author events whether my own children give me ideas or help me write my books.
And the answer is no, they don’t give me ideas (if they have good ideas, I hope they’ll write those ideas themselves!) but I often have ideas when I’m with them. In fact two of my picture books and all my novels were inspired in some way by my two girls.
They are hugely helpful in lots of other ways too. They read kids’ books, then recommend the ones they really like to me. (And they put some kids’ books down after just a few pages too, and seeing what books don’t grab them is just as useful to a writer…)
They are very useful at suggesting character names: they get credit for Roxburgh the selkie in Storm Singing, for example, and I brainstormed a few of the dragons in Maze Running with them too.
They let me read them early drafts of all my books, and reading out loud to them is a great way of gauging whether the book is working. Sometimes I scribble in the margin “this bit is boring” because I can see them losing interest. Then I ruthlessly edit that bit before it gets anywhere near paying readers!
As they are getting older, they have even started proof-reading my manuscripts on paper. My 9 year old read Maze Running with a red pen, and made some very helpful comments and criticisms.
But the main thing they do is show enthusiasm for stories. They get angry with me when I’m cruel to characters or put them in difficult situations. And if they get all excited about a story, then I know I’m on the right track.
When I was writing the animal tales for Barefoot many months ago, my younger daughter enjoyed my version of the tortoise story so much that she retold it on the living room carpet, as I was reading it out, with playmobil figures. So here is the wonderful tree, inside the circle of hungry animals (not all the animals are from Africa, to be fair, she did adapt it a bit!) The Tortoise’s Gift brought to life.
And when I’ve just burnt tea because I was scribbling down a ‘what if’ and I know I’ll be up past midnight trying to meet a deadline, then seeing my words inspire this sort of play makes it all worthwhile.
So yes, my kids do help. But not always in the way you’d think!

The Tortoise’s Gift, by the power of playmobil