Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Sam Angus

Sam Angus is the author of Soldier Dog which has been longlisted for the Carnegie Prize and the Redbridge Award amongst many others.

 

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What comes first – the narrative or the factual content?
The narrative always comes first for me, I often go through a book after the first draft, adding in any contextual detail that is needed.

How much research do you have to do? Do you research before you write or as the book is taking shape?
Yes, I spent at least a year, on and off, researching the subject before writing the story – I concentrated particularly on memoirs and letters. Many of the narrative ideas for the story were triggered by events I came across during this research.

How much does your editor change what you write? What relationship do you have with your editor?
I have a lovely relationship with my editor. When she wants changes, it can feel a little painful at first though I always end up by recognising that she is right later.

Do you feel a tension between writing what you know will sell and writing what you would like to write?
No. I write what I want to and then sometimes have to adjust things later, usually in a fairly insignificant way, in order for example that the book has somewhere to sit in a bookshop – ie by changing the age of the hero/heroine to fit in with the intended readership.

At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?
I write on a computer when at my desk, though if ideas come to me when I’m out and about, I make jottings in a notebook or even sometimes my telephone or any bit of paper that comes to hand. During the editing process, I work by hand on the manuscript and then input the corrections on to a computer later.

What control do you have over your book cover and the illustrations?
None! Though they’ve done a lovely job and the gold foil stands out in the darkest corner of any book shop. I do get to see the illustrator’s work before it goes to print, but I am not really required or encouraged to make any comment.

Do you write with a particular age group in mind? How does the target age group affect your writing?
Yes, I do write with a specific age group in mind, very much so as this is necessary for the publishers and book sellers, though I always try to write using language and choosing subjects that will also interest adults and older children.

Which historical character would you most like to have been and why?
Tricky. Good historical figures for women are few and far between. If I could be a fictional character, Velvet in National Velvet.

What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author?
A teacher.

At what stage did you know you wanted to become an author?
Since very young I always thought I would write a book though I didn’t necessarily think I would be a full time for a life time type of author.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read and read and read.

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