Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Tom Avery

Photograph of Tom Avery

Tom Avery is a writer of fiction for children and a primary school teacher. His manuscript for Too Much Trouble won the 2010 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices award and was published on June 2nd 2011 by Frances Lincoln.

How do you fit writing around full time teaching?

Unfortunately, I have to be super organised. This is unfortunate because, unlike my wife, I’m not a very organised person. She has to help me to find time every day to write.

What gave you the idea for a contemporary version of Oliver Twist?

I would have to say Oliver Twist mostly. But also, a particular child I worked with, whose own story began like Emmanuel and Prince’s (the main characters in Too Much Trouble), he was sent on his own to live in the UK. The story grew from those two seeds.

Your writing shows genuine empathy with broken children. Is this from first-hand knowledge?

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and sheltered child-hood, unlike the brothers in the book, but working in schools and youth groups I have met many children whose real stories are not like my own and could only be described as heart-breaking.

The issues you write about are difficult – gun crime, child gangs and murder. Are these suitable issues for children to read about?

Of course! They are the issues that many children hear and read about in the media everyday and the issues that, sadly many young people are involved in. If Too Much Trouble gives some of these children the opportunity to explore problems they face then I’ll be a happy writer.

When Emmanuel is desperate, he finds his way to a church to get help. Why did you choose a church?

I chose a church for two reasons. One was to echo Charles Dickens’ use of the Christian Samaritan in his work. The second is that I am a Christian and believe that there is a God who has got something to say into everyone’s story, even one as seemingly hopeless as Emmanuel’s.

Is this the end for Emmanuel and Prince or will there be another story?

There is another story. I couldn’t leave the brothers where they are. Will there be another book? Watch this space.

In what ways would you like Too Much Trouble to challenge its readers?

I never wanted it to be an ‘issues’ book, I wanted it to be an entertaining book, but I do want people to realise that there are many children who, like Emmanuel, have the responsibilities of an adult forced upon them.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am re-reading one of my favourite books, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

What do you do in your spare time?

I take my sons to places where we can run around and shout loudly, I watch films with my wife, and I read a lot.

Would you like to write full time, or do you love teaching too?

That’s a tough question. I do love teaching but I don’t love paper work. I think that eventually, I would like to write full-time and spend my time in schools as a writer rather than a teacher.

If you were in Year 6 now and had to take SATs, how would you approach the writing test, especially if you didn’t feel like writing at the time that you had to take the test?

Write about something that you care about. The SATs are terribly dull, the only way to excite yourself is to write about something that’s inspiring. The tasks this year were great for this, one about a charity, the other a record breaker. Writing’s got to come from somewhere other than the head.

Share this page: