Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a librarian and how it motivated you to become a children’s author?
After completing my studies at the university of Sussex I hit the road travelling around festivals singing, performing a storytelling with a creative arts group called The House of Fairy Tales, it was during this period that I decided that I wanted to write for family audiences. I thought I might quite like to get into picture book writing but I knew I needed to get some more hands-on experience so I considered job roles which might be suited to my particular skill set. I have always love libraries – my local growing up was Balham Library and it was one of the first places I was allowed to venture to alone. So, I decided to try and get some experience as a Librarian. I applied for one or two jobs that looked a bit stuffy but then I chanced upon a vacancy that was searching for a children’s Librarian’s assistant in a school, it was perfect for me and lo and behold I got the job! Once working in the library and getting the opportunity to interact with all age groups at the school I soon discovered that although I was O.K. at drawing I was no illustrator; I also discovered that I had quite a bit more that I wanted to explore through my writing than picture books would allow so I decided to set to work on a piece of longer fiction based on an idea that had been pestering me for quite some time!
The Tunnels Below is full of magical, half-animal creatures – how do you get your inspiration? Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Life experience, day dreaming, meeting people, imagining, travelling all of the latter and so much more. The decade after I left higher education has played a huge part in bringing The Tunnels Below into being. I don’t think I could’ve written the book at the time when the idea first planted itself in my brain. I didn’t have enough life experience to nourish it. As for the creative process, there are so many ways of describing it, I am constantly: excavating, shaping, refining, climbing, learning, honing and running with my ideas but the only thing that really counts is commitment. You have to be prepared to finish what you start. I have worked in the creative arts for almost all of my life in some form or another and some of my best work has come to fruition when I didn’t want to do it anymore. One of the only things that has kept me going is knowing that if I don’t show up to do the work the work won’t get done. Yes, I go to the theatre, exhibitions, wonder around the park, count clouds and chase stars, sometimes I even get lost on the London Underground, inspiration is everywhere but translating what inspires me into a piece of work, that’s the hard bit!
Do you have any advice for young people who might want to become authors?
Play! Whether you are writing for children, families or adults. Giving oneself permission to play will help you get through the hard bits. Try and reconnect with all the different parts of yourself that make you a whole human being. And by play, I mean play with ideas, different writing styles and forms, draw, act, meditate and dance on and off the page. Not only will this develop you as a writer (primarily because it will help you to break down some of your inhibitions and let you discover new territories) but also because play is invigorating. It takes a lot of energy to stay interested and committed to your work as a writer, there will be times when you don’t want to go on but if you know how to play at least when it gets tough you’ll know how to entertain yourself after all you may as well try and enjoy it!