The Perse School

Prep Book Club – interview with Sally Gardner

13 Feb 2015

Author Sally Gardner will be visiting the Prep for World Book Day on 5 March. She has won the Costa Children’s Book Award, the Carnegie Medal and the Smarties Prize. Her books have been translated into 22 languages and she has sold over 2 million copies in the UK. She kindly agreed to answer an email interview for the Prep Library Club, ahead of her visit. We hope you enjoy reading.

Varun – What inspired you to become a writer?
A dream. We all have dreams, but I had a dream I never told anyone about because I couldn’t spell or read until I was quite old. What I wanted to do was to be able to write down my stories, and the real dream I had was to be a writer.

Varun – Why are the themes in Maggot Moon so dark?
I did a lot of research into the Second and First World Wars for a book called The Double Shadow and it was out of that research that Maggot Moon grew. I’m afraid those were very, very dark and sinister days. In a way maybe the duty of all of us is to be careful to look after our freedoms and not to take them for granted.

Ishbel – I loved reading I Coriander. What inspired you to write it?
I actually got told I had to write a novel by a remarkable editor I had called Judith Elliot, and at the time I had no idea what I was going to write about. A lot of my stories come to me as full visions. I sometimes feel I have a cinema in my head and I can see the story playing out before I find the words for it. I had a very clear image of a little girl in a night shift, walking down a very dark staircase, and the window beside her was made of bottle glass. It was rattling due to a storm and I knew that at the bottom of the stairs there was a door that lead into a study. In the study was a man sitting at a desk with a wooden box, out of which was coming this silver light. The little girl said, “Is that my mother’s fairy shadow?” And I knew the man slammed the box shut and said, “you’ve seen nothing.” I didn’t know who the man or girl was, or which period it was set in, but that was how I, Coriander began.

Elina and Bea – What is your favourite book and why?
I always say Great Expectations, mainly because it is such a perfectly worked out Dickens story, and it works on so many different levels. It’s a coming of age story; it’s about the foolishness of our expectations. It’s also a great love story and that’s not just a love story between boy and girl. It’s also about mis-directed love. Dickens did not become soppy about Estella and she remains a very powerful character just as Miss Havisham does all the way through. Dickens wanted it to have an even darker ending but was advised not to. In the end he leaves it ambiguous and I think those are the endings I like the best.

Elina and Bea – Who has inspired you in your life?
Judith Elliot, my editor, and a theatre director called Keith Hack who I knew when I worked in theatre. I think all those who have made their dreams come true I find very inspirational.

Saira – I love Operation Bunny. What inspired you to write it?
I absolutely adore Agatha Christie. I thought it would be rather good to do a fairy detective agency where crazy things could happen. I love the idea that only Emily is human, and everybody else in the agency is magical. They’re great fun to write.

Saira – You write for lots of different ages. What age do you most like writing for?
I suppose older readers at the moment but I do love writing for 8-9 year olds.

Mrs Rigby – What kind of real-life things spark your imagination and give you ideas that you want to write about?
My new book The Door That Lead to Where was totally inspired by living in Stoke Newington in London, and by witnessing life lived here. I was also inspired by young people. I feel that often books for young adults focus on middle class, well-healed kids. I wanted to write about what I saw, and the kids I relate to who most probably haven’t had the best start in life. They are often written off by governments and educationists, when ultimately I think they have a lot to offer.


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