Sally Prue isn't sure where she was born, but from the time she was adopted as a baby she was brought up in Hertfordshire. She still lives there, not far from the woods that form the setting for much of Cold Tom.
Sally went to Nash Mills and Longdean Schools, and after that she went to work with all the rest of the family in the paper mill about six houses down the road. She worked firstly as a clerk, and then as a Time and Motion person. It was quite fun, but she was glad to be able to give up work when her first daughter was born. Sally and her husband Roger now have two grown-up daughters: Sophia and Rosalind.
When Sophie and Roz were small, Sally spent a lot of time trying to work out how to play the piano better. She taught recorder as a volunteer in her daughters' school, and then eventually was nagged into teaching recorder and piano for money. She also wrote and wrote and wrote children's fiction and gradually got better at that, too. After a long time, she was lucky enough to be taken on by Elizabeth Roy, an agent with huge amounts of patience and even more faith. Sally had quite a few bits of stuff published for Reading Schemes... and finally a novel. Hurray! The rest is on the Books page.
When Sally is not writing books she's often reading them, or writing e-mails. She also has a house and garden that decays just slightly faster than she can do anything about it. She likes walking, and birds and other animals and plants. She is really interested in frogs, art, making things, music, people, ideas, fabrics. She has a set of Northumbrian bagpipes, but she doesn't play them very often at the moment. Which is probably a good thing.
Your novel Cold Tom won the Branford Boase Award in 2002, have you had chance to read this year’s winning novel Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood?
I’m afraid I haven’t, yet. I’ve been reading the books in Arnold Bennett’s Clayhanger trilogy (half way through the third one I discovered that there are four of them!), with some comedies - Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, and Peter Pan by JM Barrie - as a bit of light relief.
What was your inspiration for Cold Tom?
I read an article saying that that people are only nice to their friends because they’re hoping to get something back. That didn’t seem true to me, so I decided to write a book about a people who have no friends (they don’t actually have any real relationships at all) so I could see how it worked out.
The answer, as it turned out, was badly.
You used to volunteer at your daughters’ school teaching the children how to play the recorder which then led onto teaching the recorder and piano professionally. Do you still play both? Have you learnt to play any new instruments?
I still teach both professionally, though I haven’t taken on a new pupil for such a long time that all my pupils have grown up. It’s good fun. It’s nice to get a chance to see people, especially when I’ve been alone writing all day.
I haven’t taken up a new instrument for ages, but I do play the guitar a bit. And I used to play the Northumbrian bagpipes.
Do you have an all time favourite book that you could never get bored of reading?
Never is a long time, but in the never of conversation, then anything by Jane Austen. I find new things to laugh at and admire every time I read her. Emma is probably top favourite.
Out of your career as an author what has been that stand out moment for you so far?
I wrote a book a long time ago called The Devil’s Toenail, and was several times told that suicidal teenagers’ lives had been turned round as a result of reading it. Nothing beats that.
I’m not sure I’d want to share the writing of a book with anyone, however much I loved and admired the other writer. It might be good fun, and it might turn out better than I could do it by myself, but it would stop me exploring weird unpromising alleyways and trying out all sorts of bizarre ideas (my new book THE NITS OF DOOM features a witch’s head lice). And it’s those lonely, mad, dangerous bits of writing that are most of the thrill of it, for me.
Could you give us your personal top three tips for a budding young author?
They’re the same top three tips as for old, experienced ones:
1. Daydream lots.
2. Write, especially about things you’re interested in.
3. Never stop trying to get better.
You can find out more about Sally Prue and her fantastic books for readers of all ages at her website: www.sallyprue.co.uk