Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Elen Caldecott

Elen Caldecott's debut novel, How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, was shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Carnegie Award.

caldecottWhen you start to write a book, do you know how it will end?
Yes, to a certain extent. I like to have an idea for a finale, and to know whether it will be a happy/sad/somewhere in between ending.
Do you base your characters on real people?
No, too dangerous.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?
I do reach a point of fatigue with books, typically around the 20k mark. When that happens, I like to walk the dog, with no headphones, or other distractions. I will often find that an idea for the next scene will occur to me.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Having to self-motivate myself. And bearing the many rejections both pre- and post- publication.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I love to hear readers’ responses to my work, especially if a situation or character has really resonated with them.
What inspired you to write?
I had a great primary school teacher who put up with very silly stories from me. She gave me lots of encouragement.
Do you follow the same process each time you write?
Yes. I plan a rough outline, then write a first draft as quickly as possible. From there, I’ll take a few months to edit. Ideally, a novel takes me about ten months to write.
At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?
From day one. I never handwrite, other than to mind map possible plots.
How much does your editor change what you write?
She often has me describe more, especially my character’s appearances. It turns out I don’t like saying what people look like.
What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author?
Perhaps a teacher, or something in film! Maybe an editor. I like films almost as much as books.
What is your attitude to kindles and ebooks?
I have the Kindle app on my phone and I read ebooks with it. I like having ‘emergency’ access to books.
What was your favourite book(s) when you were a child?
I loved Enid Blyton, especially Malory Towers. I also loved Roald Dahl, Matilda was my favourite.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read like a writer. By which, I mean work out what technical aspects you like about the books you admire. Use what you learn in your own writing.

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