Thursday, September 19, 2013

7 Questions For: Author S.P. Gates

S.P. Gates was born in Lincolnshire, England, and is a former teacher who once taught in Malawi, Africa. She is the author of more than one hundred books, and has been commended for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. She has twice won the children’s-choice Sheffield Children’s Book Award. She lives in the north of England with her husband.

Click here to read my review of The Monster in the Mudball.

And now S.P. Gates faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Can I do my top three favourite book series?
Simenon’s Maigret
Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe
Chester Himes’ Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones
(Can’t leave out C.S. Forester’s Hornblower. Don’t know what most of it means but I just love that nautical language.)

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

Not as much of either as I used to. My concentration’s getting worse as I get older – that’s my excuse anyway. About 25 hours a week writing, maybe 4 hours reading.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

Many years ago, I was teaching what used to be called “Life Skills” here in England to what used to be called back then “disaffected teenagers”. There was no money for books or any other educational resources. One day they started climbing on desks and punching out the ceiling tiles for entertainment.  Out of desperation, and to save the ceiling tiles, I wrote my own worksheets for my group.  I sent the worksheets to Oxford University Press (OUP), expecting nothing to come of it (no-one in my family had anything to do with writing or publishing). No-one could have been more amazed than me when OUP invited me to visit them.  We went down to Oxford with two toddlers and a new born baby in the back of the car. My husband, Phil, drove the kids round and round Oxford so they would stay asleep while I was in OUP’s Grecian temple-style HQ  ( yes, it has columns along the front!)  talking to one of their veteran (and rather formidable) editors. Don’t think she noticed the baby-sick on my blouse, or if she did she was far too polite to comment. Anyway, this wonderful editor helped me make my stuff into my first book, later I sort of side-stepped into fiction and in 25 years I haven’t stopped!

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I think motivation always comes first. You’ve got to want to write. But then you’ve got to want to learn to write better. For myself, I see writing as a craft that I’m still, and always will be, learning.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favourite thing is when there are no interruptions and you’ve got into the rhythm and you’re powering along and it all seems effortless and hours pass without you realising. It does sometimes happen.
My least favourite thing is what used to be a blank page in the typewriter when I started my writing career but is now a blank screen. And the other is waiting and waiting – and waiting - for publishers to read my stuff!

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I don’t know about wisdom. But here are a few practical tips that I like to keep in mind when I’m writing for Middle Graders.

Keep it tight. Your prose, the plot: practise being economic. It’s not so much what you put in but what you leave out.

Keep it focussed. Think in scenes not chapters, like you’re shooting a film. Decide, like a director looking through a camera lens, “What’s the purpose of this scene? What do I want it to show?”  And stick to what you decide. Don’t introduce any irrelevant business (we call it “waffle” over here!) that could hold up the action.

Keep it logical. Even the craziest, most fantastical imaginary worlds can be made believable if they have their own internal logic. 

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I’d like to have lunch with the poet Kim Addonizio. My daughter would have to be there (she’d be furious if she wasn’t invited) because she loves her poetry even more than I do.   

1 comment:

  1. I love her quote about continuing to learn as an author.Nothing is ever perfect and learning how to write better can be a lifelong pursuit.


Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.