You used to work as an editor, now you’re a writer – what’s it like being on the other side of the book publishing process?
It felt quite strange at first, but it’s been lovely. My editor at Stripes has given me lots of support and great suggestions. As a writer, you’re really too close to your manuscript to be able to see it clearly; that’s why editors are so crucial! I do still edit other people’s books as my day job, so it’s nice to be able to sit at both sides of the table… I feel very lucky.
When did you start writing?
I must have started when I was very young; I do remember getting a copy of the Anti-Colouring Book when I was about six, and thinking how cool it was that you could finish the stories and pictures in the book yourself. In fact I still recommend that book for kids and grown-ups alike, it is so much fun!
Tell us more about your brand new book ‘Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs’ …
Elspeth is ten years old and has to live in a dreadful school full of show-offs with her evil aunt, Miss Crabb. Soon Elspeth starts to realise that all is not as it seems, and she starts hunting for clues about her past…
I had enormous fun writing the book, especially the nasty character of Miss Crabb and her sidekick dinner lady, Gladys Goulash. The illustrations by James Brown make it even more fun; I think he’s done a brilliant job.
As you have worked with books throughout your career, where do you find inspiration to create original stories?
I think there are so many stories out there that follow the path of previous stories, but then take a new route, if that makes sense. The idea of an orphaned child finding out about her past isn’t original, but I hope the setting and characters and voice in Elspeth’s world are fresh. I tend to have lots of new ideas all the time – the hard part is working out which ones are worth going with, and which should be abandoned!
Do you have a special place that you write?
I do have a desk at home, which is great, but it’s far too close to my kitchen and I tend to bake when I’m stuck, so I can lose hours making chocolate brownies instead of writingJ. I like going to quiet libraries or anywhere peaceful. It’s also very helpful to have no internet connection during your writing time!
Do you have any top tips for budding writers?
Don’t give up. You might have to deal with a huge pile of rejections, but keep plugging away. Read lots of other people’s work. Write your first draft fast and just get it down on paper, but then go back and try to think about your reader: is this scene entertaining/moving/exciting for the reader? Will this reference make sense to the reader? That kind of thing.
Where can fans of you find out more about your work?
I can be found on Twitter @sfssong
I also run a consultancy that gives editorial feedback to children’s and YA writers. It’s called The Lighthouse, and we are on Twitter @thelighthouseuk
I blog for The Lighthouse about the publishing process here.
And there will be a lovely Elspeth Hart website in May 2015!
Can you sum up ‘Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs’ is 3 words?
Show-offs, suspense, silliness!