Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Pauline Francis

francisPauline Francis was a teacher and librarian before becoming a full-time writer. She writes books for children and young people.

What comes first – the fiction side of the book or the historical period?
I’m interested in the women who were trapped in dangerous situations and didn’t always have the power to extricate themselves.

How much research do you have to do? Do you research before you write or as the book is taking shape?
I always choose ONE historical fact (eg Lady Jane Grey was manipulated onto the English throne by her father-in-law; Elizabeth 1 was used/abused by her stepfather). Then I weave in the fiction. For the first Tudor book (Raven Queen), I did lots of research before I started to write. I never research as I’m writing. Then I check my dates/facts when I’ve finished. Finding maps and primary sources (such as letters) is the most fun.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?
I’ve never had writer’s block – yet!

What was your favourite book(s) when you were a child? Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

There were few teenage books when I was growing up. I’d loved to have read Skellig and Tom’s Midnight Garden, which would have been my favourites.

How much does your editor change what you write? What relationship do you have with your editor?
My editor changes very little. For Traitor’s Kiss, I was asked to make a structural change to avoid too many flashbacks. But I was happy to do it, as my editors have always been sensitive and in tune with my writing.

Do you feel a tension between writing what you know will sell and writing what you would like to write?
Not until now. But I admit to wanting to move away from real historical characters.

At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?
I use a computer every day, but I do plan with pen and paper between 7-9am in a coffee shop.

What control do you have over your book cover (and your illustrations)?
I am always consulted about the cover design and asked to help with the cover blurb, which is really important.

Do you write with a particular age group in mind? How does the target age group affect your writing?
I write for teenagers – but I soon discovered that, because Tudors are part of KS2, I have a lot of younger readers, which has surprised me. I choose not to make my novels sexually explicit, but there is some sexual content, within its historical context.

What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author?
Having done many jobs and coming to writing later in life, I’d be horrified not to be an author. I can’t imagine any other life now!

At what stage did you know you wanted to become an author?
At 11-12, but I thought it was a job other people did – not me! It was only when I was studying for a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature (I was a teacher/librarian), that I decided I’d rather be writing the books than studying them. I finished my degree, but decided to write full-time.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read good books and decide why they’re good. Read bad books and decide why they’re bad. Write every day – however little. Enter Short Story competitions. I judge several a year and some of the stories I see would be brilliant novels – so it could lead you somewhere wonderful.

 


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