How does it feel like to have your first children’s book published?
Finally getting an actual book in my hand, with my own name on the cover, is very special. I love the size and feel of the book in hardback and I’ve been particularly lucky in getting such a stunning cover. Close To The Wind is a good looking book, which I’m very proud of. The only thing better than having it in my own hand is seeing it in other people’s and I’m really enjoying it being out in the world and hearing what people think of it.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have always thought that I could be a writer. At primary school, aged about six, I remember staying in the classroom at lunch time to write my first book. But then I spent a long, long time where I didn’t write anything at all. I don’t know why but if you’re not careful you can lose the habit. Once I started to write again it was always going to be novels for young people and I’ve worked very hard for about four years to get this far.
‘Worlds falling apart’ seems to be something of a theme for you. What do you mean by that?
Well, to begin with, it’s why I write for children and young adults. All stories are about change and I think the most exciting literature occurs in the borderlands, along the edges where different worlds meet. Geographically, the border is that point where you move from one country or continent to another. I think of it as being like tectonic plates – where you get change and friction – just like a teenager at the point of exploring new things – being handed this world and having to have an idea of how you want to be in it. It’s about the old and the new and this readership is right there at that place, asking themselves who they are and how they want the world to be and I find that exciting.
What books did you like as a child?
The books that did it for me as a child were a beautiful illustrated copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories and later, when I read on my own, Alan Garner’s Moon of Gomrath. I can still remember the brooding dark red cover and the images of warriors on horseback riding out of a mountain.
Do any of your photojournalism experiences help to shed any light on your novels?
Not in the sense of specific people or settings I might have used. But as a photojournalist you are seeking out images that are specific but also universal. So you may photograph someone who is homeless to illustrate a story on the housing crises. I guess that tends to be a theme in my writing, how the individual relates to society and the disparities between the two. It’s why I like Steinbeck’s writing – he’s a bit of an influence!
Do you think in pictures?
Absolutely! I think it’s how we tell stories that are powerful and come to life & I think it’s how our brains process and remember narratives. I also tend to use a lot of photographic metaphors to describe how I write. So for instance, I tend to think of narrative distance as different lenses. Also, I like the idea that a picture contains both black and white. The black is important, people always try to forget about the darkness but we need it there and it should be in children’s books too! If my books were photos I think they would be B/W rather than colour!