Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Nicky Singer

Nicky SingerNicky Singer was born in 1956 and has worked in publishing, the arts and television. She began her writing career at the age of 15, with lyrics for a cantata Jonah and the Whale, and has since written four adult novels. Feather Boy, Nicky's first novel for the younger market, won the Blue Peter Book Award in 2002.

When you start to write a book, do you know how it will end?

Absolutely. I never begin a book until I know what the last line will be.

Do you base your characters on real people?

No. It’s quite impossible to do that because then they won’t behave the way the plot demands. But I do ‘jack-daw’ certain traits I’ve observed in friends and family….

Do you follow the same process each time you write?

Yes. Though the process is different for novels/opera/plays etc. Basically I wrestle with a notebook and an idea for about 6 months, then when I can write the structure of story out one line per chapter, I actually begin the book.

At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?

 After the six months – ie when I begin to do the writing rather than the planning.

How much do you edit your work?

Always and ever. I try to write 1000 words a day. The following day the first thing I do is re-read and edit those words, so that 1000 might become 300 or (on a lucky day..) 2000. I keep editing right until the book is sent to print.

How much does your editor change what you write?

Not a lot.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?

Touch wood – no. Touch lots of wood.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

The self-belief when it isn’t going well.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

You can do it in the bath. Which means that some of your best ideas come when you are not actually looking for them. How lucky is that?

At which point did you become a writer?

I won a bar of chocolate for a story I wrote about a giraffe when I was six. I was hooked from then.

Do you have input into the cover of your books?

 Slightly more now than when I started out – but generally no. Which is probably a good thing because my visual sense leaves a bit to be desired.

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

Dictator.

What is your attitude to ebooks?

Personally – having worked all day at a screen, I long for the printed page. And I don’t think anything will change that for me. But I can see that e-books will change not just the face (or interface..) of reading but also of publishing.

What was your favourite book(s) when you were a child?

I read loads of books that people sneer at now – such as Enid Blyton and the Billy Bunter stories. Then moved seamlessly on to Dickens and Austen and – my favourite – the Brontes.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Do it. Lots of people want to be writers but far fewer actually want to put in the work. If you write, then you are a writer.

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