‘Hour of the Doomed Dog’ is your latest title and also the very last book in the Undead Pets series! What made you come to this decision and how do you feel?
I’ve loved writing Undead Pets. I’ve got to know Joe and his family and the zombie pets, really well. I’ll miss not thinking up new adventures for them. But it’s great to work on new stories too. And who knows - maybe some day there will be a new Undead Pets book! I have lots of ideas for further adventures... Perhaps Joe could be visited by a chicken or a goat. Or a stick insect or maybe a spider! I’ve had lots of kids ask me to write one about a reptile, too.
You wrote your first children’s book title around the same time as having a baby. How old is your daughter/son now and do they enjoy reading your books?
My daughter is 11 now. And she’s a fantastic help. A great sounding board - with a good eye for what’s exciting, and what’s not! I also have a son who is nearly seven. And he’s really helpful too. A lot of the books I write are aimed at children his age, so it’s useful to know what sort of stuff kids are interested in.
Both of my children love reading so I get to hear about a lot of great books. Plus I support several primary school book groups. We read lots of different books together and the kids are great at telling me what they love - and hate! J
Do you have a special place you go to for inspiration on new books you’re writing or do you have any special requirements when writing?
My background is journalism, so I do quite a bit of research before I start writing. It’s especially important for non-fiction books. I wrote one about abandoned cats a few years ago, and I spent time in a rescue centre listening to the staff, learning about the kittens and cats they cared for - where they’d came from and what had happened to them. I’ve also written a book about guide dog training, and that was really fascinating to research.
I do a lot of research for novels too. When I was writing Undead Pets 3 - the Night of the Howling Hound, I interviewed a lady who worked for a woodland adventure centre, so I’d know the type of things Joe and his friends would be doing on their trip.
As for writing, generally... I don’t have many special requirements... apart from an endless supply of tea and coffee - and chocolate! I work in a cupboard and it is right next to the kitchen, (and the fridge!) so I don’t have far to go for supplies! That’s probably a bad thing.
Out of all of the books you have written which was the most enjoyable to write and for what reason?
I always enjoy the book I’m currently working on. But Undead Pets has been especially fun. There’s a great team at Stripes - Ruth my Editor is always full of fantastic ideas and suggestions. And Simon Cooper the illustrator is amazing. It’s such a treat to see his interpretation of the stories!
(STRANGE FACT ALERT: Simon Cooper grew up in the same small town as me in Scotland! But we didn’t know each other. How weird is that!)
Also - I love the theme of Undead Pets - the idea of zombie animals returning to haunt Joe until he solves their problems is such good fun! A lot of the books I write are about ghosts and magic and animals, so Undead Pets is pretty purr-fect for me!
What would you say is the proudest moment in your career as a children’s author?
Getting my first book published was probably one of my proudest moments. After years of writing stories, and receiving rejections - bucket loads of rejections - finally getting that first ‘YES!’ was unlike any feeling I’d ever experienced before. And then to see my book appear on the shelves in my local book shop...Wow!
But the best bit about writing for children is the feedback you receive. Sometimes I get letters from kids who tell me that they didn’t like reading until they found Undead Pets. That’s the best feeling of all. To know that you have maybe put a tiny pebble on someone’s pathway to becoming a reader, that feels really special.
You're stranded on a desert island, you’re only allowed three books, which would you choose?
What? Three book? Seriously! Only three?
NOOOOO!!! *PANIC FACE!!*
How long am I staying? Could we do a deal here? Would I be allowed the ‘complete works’ of someone to count as one book? That would keep me going a while. So...maybe - a complete set of Sherlock Holmes stories. I LOVE Sherlock Holmes!
Graham Greene is my favourite adult author - so definitely one of his.
And perhaps Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s probably one of my favourite children’s books. And it would be appropriate for the island.
Actually - could we scrap all that and make it an island with a library, and possibly a drinks & snacks vending machine, too? What do you reckon?
How do you relax when you're not writing?
Reading, watching movies, crafting with my kids... I also like to sit in the garden. I hate gardening - but I love admiring other people’s efforts.
I like museums and galleries too. The National Portrait Gallery is a favourite. Every picture has a story to tell. It’s a writer’s paradise!
If you could give one writing tip to a young writer what would it be?
Tenacity! The determination to persevere, to keep going even when you get rejected! You have to be tough to be a writer. When you get a ‘no thank you’ letter from a publisher it’s hard not to feel demoralised, especially when you first start out. But if you believe in yourself, and believe that you can do it, then you will! I always tell people you need to behave like a boxer - when someone lands a punch, come back doubly hard. If you get a rejection, write something even more amazing next time!
Also write as much as you can. Not just stories, everything! Write for your school magazine. Write a blog. Write poems and rhymes and crazy limericks! Once you get into the habit of writing something everyday, it becomes normal.
What are your plans for the future? Have you started a new children’s book series? If so could you give us a sneak preview of what it is about?
I’ve got a new book coming out in August - the Battle of the Beach Freaks, published by Catnip, which I’m thrilled about. It’s the third part in a trilogy called Screaming Sands, about seaside ghosts!
I’m also working on several new stories which is exciting!
I don’t know about you but I always have lots of ideas trying to escape out of my brain. That’s why it’s crucial to keep a notebook and pencil handy so you don’t let any get away without writing them down first.
For more information about Sam and the Undead Pets series please visit samhayauthor.com/tag/undead-pets/