Your books have a lot of magical elements to them – where do you find your inspiration for these?
I’ve always loved magic and when I’m writing a new series I like to start with the thought ‘what would happen if…’ For me, this usually involves something magical such as ‘what would happen if I had a pony that could turn into a unicorn’, ‘what would happen if I looked into the sky and saw magic horses in the clouds’, ‘what would happen if I was whisked off to a magical snowy land.’
Do your children ever help out with any ideas or suggestions for the magical adventures your books take the reader on?
Occasionally, but I generally find it very easy to think of magical adventures I would like to have and if they have ideas they are about things that they like, but that I might not find it easy to write about like huskies or elephants or trains! They are brilliant at listening to my stories as I write them though and telling me which bits are good and which bits could be better.
If you could only visit either Mermaid Island, Stardust Forest, The Magic Ice-Skating Academy, the Unicorn School or Unicorn Meadows, which would it be and why?
That’s so unfair because I would like to visit them all! There isn’t really a Stardust Forest as such, every forest and every beach has stardust spirits who help look after it but I would love to be a Stardust spirit because of being able to fly and do magic and look after animals. I think if I had to choose one magic world out of the others though it would be Mermaid Island. I grew up by the sea and have always loved it and been fascinated by stories about merpeople. I would love to have a dolphin as a best friend and be able to explore the underwater world.
You have several successful book series – do the books start out as a series or develop into one?
My books always start out as series from the start. When I was growing up I hardly ever read stand-alone books, I’ve always loved series fiction. Whenever I think of a new set of characters now, I never ever want to just tell one story about them, I want to tell lots and lots and if I can’t think of lots I won’t start writing about them. I’d hate to leave them after just one book; it would be like making friends with someone and then just walking away.
Do you have a favourite character from your books? Why are they your favourite?
Another unfair question! I love all my main characters! I adore Twilight the unicorn and Splash the dolphin; they are definitely my two of favourite animal characters because they are just such wonderful best friends to Lauren and Electra. Electra the mermaid is one of my favourite characters because she gets into so much trouble without meaning to and she is so brave. Erin in ‘Sky Horses’ is another favourite because in many ways she is quite like I was when I was eleven, quite quiet and shy but very imaginative and pony-mad. My absolute favourite characters though have to be Ellie and Spirit from ‘Loving Spirit’ – Spirit is the most amazing horse and Ellie is very like I am now.
How did writing ‘Loving Spirit’ for older readers compare to writing fiction for young readers?
It was very different in some ways but similar in others. When I write I always try and have characters who seem real and I try and make the books exciting, I also often write about the relationships between animals and people so ‘Loving Spirit’ was similar in those ways. The differences … well, ‘Loving Spirit’ is a lot longer than my other books which meant I could spend a more time describing things, which was lovely for me as a writer and there is some romance in the books which again was brilliant to write. The main difference though is that Ellie in ‘Loving Spirit’ has a lot more unhappiness in her life than the characters in my shorter books. All my characters always have some sort of problem but Ellie has a really tough time and is seriously unhappy at the start of the first book. It was hard writing that because as a writer you live through what your characters are feeling as you write about it but I knew that if Ellie hadn’t been really unhappy then the good stuff that eventually happens to her wouldn’t have meant so much and the bond between her and Spirit wouldn’t have seemed so amazing. Both Ellie and Spirit needed bad things to have happened to them in order for them to find each other and love each other. Unlike my shorter books, there are some scenes that are meant to make you cry but then hopefully the happy scenes make up for it!
‘Loving Spirit’ deals with some serious issues, but is heartfelt and sincere – was this style of writing a welcome change to softer young readers’ fiction?
I love both types of writing. I love the challenges of the longer books (I do live things with the characters and cry as I write the sad scenes!) but the shorter books are so much fun, I wouldn’t ever want to just write for one age group and one type of book. I think I would get bored.
Will any of your book series become TV shows or films?
A series called ‘Heartland’ that I helped to write a while ago under a different name has been made into a TV show in Canada and it is wonderful to watch the episodes on DVD. I don’t think there are any plans for any of the books I write under my own name to be filmed but I would love it if they were. I would especially love to see ‘My Secret Unicorn’ or ‘Loving Spirit’ on TV!
Who are your literary idols?
Enid Blyton because of the amount she wrote and the impact she had on so many children by writing stories they loved. To still be such a popular author after such a long time is an incredible feat. E. Nesbit because in her books she wrote about magic happening to ordinary children, I read her books over and over again because they were so imaginative and funny and her characters so real. The Pullein-Thompson sisters for all their wonderful pony books peopled with brilliantly memorable characters and more recently, Philip Pullman because I loved his Dark Materials trilogy.
With over 120 books published, do you have any writing ambitions you’d still like to fulfil?
To write a popular series for girls who like magic but don’t necessarily like fairies and unicorns. To write a popular series for girls who do like fairies and unicorns! To write a picture book. To write some pony stories for 8-12s without magic in. To write a series for young boys. Maybe one day, but not now, to write an adult horse novel for all the adults out there who still love horses and love reading about them … hmm, I have so many writing ambitions left, I’d better get writing!
What advice can you give budding young writers?
Read a lot and write a lot and look at what you write with a critical eye. Always think what you liked about your writing and what you feel could be better next time. You’ll never be perfect but you can always try and improve. Don’t overcomplicate. It can be tempting to put all your ideas down in one story but often you need to be ruthless and just pick one idea and really work on it and save the other ideas for another story.
What do fans of Linda Chapman have to look forward to for the rest of the year?
‘Loving Spirit’ (book 1) and ‘Loving Spirit: Dreams’ (book 2) and then next year ‘Loving Spirit’ books 3 and 4, and hopefully a couple of new younger series too - what there will be is something I am working on right now, but hopefully they might fulfil some of my writing ambitions!
Can you sum up ‘Loving Spirit’ in 4 words?
Love at first sight.
Loving Spirit by Linda Chapman
Published by Puffin
Published on 5th August 2010
Now Ellie's found him, she'll never let go ...
Ellie has lost her parents, her home in New Zealand and everything she knows. Now she must live in England with family, who are more like strangers.
Life on her Uncle Len's horse farm seems so lonely - until Ellie meets Spirit. She's never seen the grey horse before, but she has the strangest feeling they've always known each other.
Like Ellie, Spirit is alone in the world, and they form an intense bond. And as the weeks go by, Spirit helps Ellie to discover an incredible talent that changes both their lives forever.
Recommended for readers 10+