How did you start to write for children?
My first paid writing job was at a teen magazine where I worked on features and then on the beauty pages. It was so exciting writing for this age group that I've never wanted to stop. Maybe it's also because part of me is a child inside my head.
What kind of stories do you most enjoy writing?
I can't imagine writing anything but a story with an emotional heart, because that's essentially who I am. Below the surface, I feel everything really deeply and try to channel that into my work.
Another thing that's really important to me, and something I try to explore in my writing, is hope. Without feeling hope I don't think I could write anything at all. Hope is the ribbon that is woven through each and every one of my books. No matter how difficult things are there is always hope - I truly believe that and it's the draw that keeps pulling me back to writing these stories.
In The Girl with Space in her Heart, you follow Mabel Mynt, who has a 'worry suitcase' that is weighing her down. What was the starting point of the story for you?
A while ago, my sister gave me a CD which was supposed to help you relax. It had the sounds of waves lapping on a beach and seagulls and a man saying to close your eyes and pack your worries into a box or a chest and lock them in there.
It got me thinking about packing the worries away and then I got to thinking about what you'd do if you had to drag those same worries around with you and how heavy it would be if you couldn't get rid of them.
I still have that CD and put it on from time to time.
We discover during the story that Mabel's father has disappeared. What draws you to exploring how difficult family backgrounds can impact on children?
Separation and loss are all complex situations in a child's life and can have a huge emotional impact, affecting the child for a long time. So, I try to explore what happens afterwards and how the child will cope going forward.
It's important that the child in the book, despite having a difficult time, realises that things can and will improve and they will grow stronger as a result.
Mabel struggles to get on with her prickly older sister, Topaz. Why did you decide to make their relationship so challenging?
Yes, their relationship is challenging but I think it's because they're both dealing with their own issues in different ways so when they come together, they clash. But I'm in no doubt that deep down they love each other and would do anything for each other. That's how I feel about family. You might argue and fall out, but you'd do anything for each other.
Space is quite a big theme in the story - are you a stargazer, or did you need to research your facts for the book?
I am a stargazer in the fact that I absolutely love looking at the sky. But for me, it's more of an emotional pull. I look up and feel awe at how vast it is and how incredible.
Do children contact you about your novels and have you ever followed through on a suggestion they have made?
Yes, I do sometimes get letters and I love it when readers take the time to write. A hand written letter is so special and they all find a little home on my fridge so I can see them every day. And if they make a suggestion that would help with a book then I would always keep it in mind because children are amazing and have the best ideas.
What are the best and worst things about being an author?
The best part is daydreaming. How amazing to have a job where I can daydream and be anyone or anything I want. I'm only limited by my own imagination.
The worst part, I guess if you could call it worst, is it can be a bit lonely at times. For a large part of the process you're alone and sometimes I miss having company like you'd have at school or in an office.
Still, I can't complain because it's the best job ever so there isn't really a worst part at all.
What would your dream writer's shed look like, and where would it be?
I do my writing at the dining table so a writer's shed would be a total dream for me. I'd like to have a garden big enough to have a little painted, wooden shed at the back and then I'd fill it with inspirational pictures and quotes. Oh, and there would have to be fairy lights - there always has to be fairy lights because they remind me of stars.
Where would it be? That's an easy one for me. It would be at home. With all my characters - they go in search of something and they tend to find the answers in a special place and that special place is home.
What do you enjoy doing the most when you're not writing?
I tap dance, so that's my favourite thing in the world. I always feel full of joy when I've got my dancing shoes on. There's no better feeling than tired feet and a happy heart. I also have an interest in interiors so you'll often find me searching Pinterest for different fabrics and deciding whether I want Limestone or Mortar paint on my walls...
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