Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with William Nicholson

William NicholsonWilliam Nicholson is a screenwriter, playwright and novelist. His novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001. Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery , was published in 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong , in 2002. The trilogy has been sold in every major foreign market, from the US to China.

His second sequence of fantasy novels is called The Noble Warriors. The first book is Seeker (2005), the second book, Jango (2006) and the third book Noman (2007).

What comes first - plot, character or situation?

I start with my main character, and with that character's emotion. What does my hero want? That becomes the plot driver.

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

Yes. By the time I start actual writing, I've planned it all out. Of course it changes in the writing, but usually the ending remains in place.

Do you base your characters on real people?

Not consciously. Later I sometimes realise that I've been using, say, my parents. But I don't do it deliberately.

What inspired you to write?

Love of reading.

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

I hand-write the first draft, then type it onto the word processor. Then I print out and hand-correct. And re-type. And so on.

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

Yes. But I always keep going. If I'm really stuck I tell myself I'm not doing the real writing, only making notes. That way I can get past my inner censor.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Losing confidence in your own work. It's devastating when it happens.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The joy of writing. Making stuff up, and hardly knowing where it comes from. Feeling you've got closer than you thought to how things really are.

How much does your editor change what you write?

Both my agent and my editor go through my work and advise cuts, amendments, etc. Probably about 10%.

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

A teacher.

What is your attitude to Kindle and e-books?

I don't like to read books on screens myself. But I'm happy to be read that way if that's what others want.

What were your favourite books when you were a child?

The William books by Richmal Crompton.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Read a lot. Write every day. Show your work to others, and listen to their criticisms. Rewrite.

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