Author Interview: Cathy Cassidy

Cathy Cassidy, the Young Adult and children’s author, kindly agreed to answer some of my questions. Here are her responses:

What were some of your favourite books when you were a child?

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?

The first (Dizzy) – because it took decades to crack the knack of writing a full-length book.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Miss Quinn, the art teacher from Driftwood, according to my friends! I am most like the quieter / shy / dreamy characters I guess.

How do you write your books? Do you plot and plan in detail, or do you develop an idea as you are writing?

I daydream, using an idea or inspiration as a starting point, and if I am lucky a story unravels. I don’t plot on paper – for me, this kills the story dead!

Where do you write your books?

I have a Macbook Air laptop so I might write in my writing shed, in the garden, or at the kitchen table!

Why do enjoy writing for children?

I get to see life through the eyes of my characters and share their adventures; I get paid to daydream; and I’m doing a job I love!

What advice would you give to young writers to help them to improve their stories?

My top tips for writers are on the Writer’s Workshop page on my website (see below), but most important of all is to believe in yourself – and WRITE!

Many thanks to Cathy for taking the time to contribute to The Book Base. If you haven’t already done so, check out her great website.

If you enjoyed this short author interview, have a look at more of our Q&As with writers.

Children’s Author Interview: Anne Fine

Anne Fine, the second Children’s Laureate and the author of numerous books for children and adults, kindly agreed to answer some questions for The Book Base.

What were some of your favourite books when you were a child?

All the William books (Richmal Crompton). All the Jennings books (Anthony Buckeridge) and loads of Enid Blyton’s – especially The River, Mountain etc of Adventure.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?

The Devil Walks. It kept going wrong. I kept having to shelve it, write something simpler, then come back to it later.

Which of your characters is most like you?

The Mum in Goggle Eyes. Ally in The Stone Menagerie. Tulip in The Tulip Touch (deep, deep inside). Chester Howard in How to Write Really Badly.

How do you write your books? Do you plot and plan in detail, or do you develop an idea as you are writing?

No plotting or planning. I start with a situation that interests me, think ‘What if…?’, and off I go. The stories are character led.

Where do you write your books?

Anywhere it’s quiet. At home, it is quiet. On trains, I use an iPod with crashing surf (white noise) to blot the noises and chatter around me out.

Why do you enjoy writing for children?

I just enjoy writing (I write for adults, too). But the reading child is a committed reader. Your rarely hear, ‘Oh, I don’t find time to read’ from a child reader (not the same as a child who can read!)

What advice would you give to a young writers to help them to improve their stories?

Read, read, read. Then sit down and write the book you’d most like to read but no-one has written for you. And if all that planning and ‘wow words’ and connectives stuff you have to do at school (‘writing by numbers’) gets on your nerves, do it at home, the way you enjoy doing it.

Check out Anne’s website.

A Glimpse at J.K. Rowling’s Writing Method

The movie blog, /Film, recently posted some images of J.K. Rowling’s planning for a couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. To be honest, I was blown away by the level of detail. I knew that J.K. Rowling had plotted the storyline for the whole Harry Potter series before she started to write The Philospher’s Stone, but I hadn’t really considered how complex the planning would have to be in order to keep track of the many subplots.

/Film says that:

She keeps track of all the book’s subplots in every chapter and how they are developing in the real world of the book, even if they aren’t mentioned on the page. So, there’s a full column on “The Prophecy” which is the main subplot Harry is worried about throughout the book. Then there’s a column for the romantic subplot, titled “Cho/Ginny” followed by “D.A.” which follows what’s going on with Harry, Ron and Hermione’s resistance group “Dumbledore’s Army,” one called “O of P,” a column about what’s the latest with the “Order of the Phoenix,” a.k.a, the people who believe Voldemort is still alive, then separate columns for Snape (and others, I can’t read Rowlings writing) and the Hagrid and Grawp story.

Check out part of J.K. Rowling’s plan. I love the way it is written in biro on a rough piece of lined paper. It’s almost as if she had finally worked how all the pieces and strands of her story worked together, and had to record it on whatever was available before she forgot some of the details.

J.K. Rowling Planning Page
J.K. Rowling's Planning

See /Film for larger images.