Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Susan Price

Susan priceSusan Price is an English author of children's and young-adult novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children's books.

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

Hardly ever. I usually have an idea of how it will end - whether it will be happy or sad, which characters will succeed and which will fail. But I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I have to find that out.

Do you base your characters on real people?

Sometimes. There's a little of me in every character. I might decide that a character looks like a certain real person, or I might take a movement, or a way of standing from a real person. Usually a character is made up of several different people.

Do you follow the same process each time you write?

Pretty much. I've found out what works for me!

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

I almost always write straight onto a computer. It makes changing things and editing much, much easier. Occasionally I write on a tablet, and sometimes on paper with a pen - but usually it's my big desktop.

How much do you edit your work?

Constantly. Editing starts in my head before I even write anything down. Then I'm always reading back through what I've written and changing things. Sometimes quite small details. I'm scanning a book I published 17 years ago into my computer, and I'm editing that!  Writing is about rewriting. That's an important thing to learn. Writers don't write - they rewrite.

How much does your editor change what you write?

Editors always want changes - and often they're right. That's another thing you have to learn! - That editors who want you to change your writing can often be right. You have to be open to criticism and ready to recognise when a suggestion is better than what you've written. Having said that, I don't agree to every change an editor wants! I consider it very carefully, and only change what I've written if I'm convinced that it improves my book.

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

I think every writer has times when they want to write, but can't see to make themselves do it. Every writer I know, anyway. It's usually just fear. Fear that the wonderful idea isn't as wonderful as you thought. Or that you're just not good enough to do it. So you keep thinking about it, and thinking about it and never actually writing it. The best way I've found of dealing with this is to set a timer. It would take a while to explain here. Follow this link to my website for all to be revealed -

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Not earning much money! If you're thinking about being a writer, remember that 80% of writers don't earn enough from writing to live on. Figures from The Society of Authors.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The freedom. I'm broke, but I can do what I like, when I like. Provided it doesn't cost much. But a lot of good things don't.

At which point did you become a writer?

I've been a writer since I was 16 years old.

Do you have input regarding the cover of your books?

It's written into my contracts that I do, but in practice, I don't. Except with my self-published books -
These covers were done by my brother, Andrew Price, and I had a lot of input into them. Though I have to admit, the best ones are those where I just let him get on with it!

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

I don't really know.

What is your attitude to ebooks?

I love them! I have self-published several - and I'm talking with the e-book publisher Open Door about republishing my Sterkarm novels. What Open Door can do that I can't is advertise. It's no use publishing an ebook if no one knows about it.

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

Oh, I had several. Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books - Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - the Just William books - and I was also very fond of a book called Kallee which almost no one has heard of. I blogged about it here -

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Read everything, good and bad. Re-read everything you write yourself, and rewrite it. Persevere!

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