What? When? Where? How? Why? Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Who? What?

What would you be if you weren't an author?

Well, I still teach the piano a little. All my pupils are really nice and quite enjoy playing, so it's great fun. It's harder when people aren't interested, though... on the whole, I expect I'd probably be working on a till in the Co-op.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Depends. A little thousand-word book might be completely finished in a week; a novel might take ten years, on and off. Say seven months for a novel, writing pretty much full-time... and then my editor will have clever ideas about changing things to make it better, and after that my copy editor will point out things like verbs not agreeing with subjects, and the fact that the sandy beach was pebbly on page 76. A novel and some small stuff a year is good going for me.

How much do you earn?

It depends on how many books people buy! I probably get a bit less than 10 per cent of the money people spend on the book, but 10% of that goes to my agent (yes, she's well worth it!). I also get about 5p every time someone borrows a book from a public library. There's also money from rights for films, audio versions and translations and other foreign rights, and talking at schools and festivals.

How can I get my books published?

First, you have to write it. So many people don't understand this! Then, probably, you have to write a few more books, doing everything you can to improve your writing as you do.

Getting a job in publishing helps a lot.

Try The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook for useful names and addresses.

Keep trying. Never give up. Read lots. Daydream lots. Make sure your books are properly about someone or something - not just a means of showing off. Listen to people. Watch them. Be interested in them. If possible, like them.

How many books have you written?

About twice as many as have been published! I've lost count, really... about a couple of dozen? Quite often an old book will get published because it just fits in what a publisher wants at the moment. A book that's been rejected by every publisher in the country can be published five years later and be a big success! James and the Alien Experiment was like this.

Do you like writing about animals?

Yes, but only real animals living their real animally lives. Pets are fine - but I wouldn't want to have to write about a talking cat, unless it was a completely feline cat. If I wanted to write about something cuddly and furry and sweet I'd probably make up a creature to fit the bill. I do like reading that sort of book, though.

Where do you get your ideas from?


Oh, all right - I've no idea. I keep an eye out for stories in the newspapers or from friends. One of the best ways for me to come up with a story is to start with some random words and try to join them up. Like... where's the dictionary?... er... mute, cipher, scooter, bull-mastiff.

Who's your favourite author?

For grown-ups, Jane Austen. For children - oh, it's very difficult. If I had to name just one, I suppose it would be Diana Wynne Jones.

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