Monday, 6 May 2013

Editor Interview: Claire Westwood from OUP on Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins

Claire Westwood is an Editorial Assistant at Oxford University Press. Previously, she worked as part of the editing team at Taylor & Francis. Here, she talks about her love of children's books, and working on Waiting for Gonzo...

What was your favourite children's book as a child? 

Ooh, that’s a really tricky one! I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm and picking just one book from my childhood is impossible. Having said that, I devoured pretty much everything by Roald Dahl, and of all his wonderful books, Matilda was a particular favourite of mine.

Miss Trunchbull is definitely one of literature’s all-time best baddies, and the bit where Bruce Bogtrotter succeeds in eating the entire chocolate cake still makes me wants to punch the air with elation. I saw the musical version of Matilda at the theatre recently and I think I actually did punch the air at that point! 

What is your favourite children's book as an adult?

Again, that’s almost impossible to answer. My favourites are constantly changing depending on what I’ve read recently. I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio last month and it left me on such an amazing emotional high that when I finished the last page I quickly turned back to page one and read the whole thing again! I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan and have lost count of the number of times I’ve got into arguments with people who say they don’t like it. Usually it’s because they’ve only just seen the films, and I have to resist the urge to become overly zealous about how much better the books are!

What do you think makes children's books so inspirational?

I think it could be something to do with the fact that when you read them, you’re still forming a sense of who you are as a person, and so the books you read as a child have a massive impact on the sort of person you end up becoming. 

I know from my own experience of the characters who really inspired me— characters like Pippi Longstocking, Jo from Little Women, and Georgia Nicholson in the books by Louise Rennison– who made me think, ‘Wow, they’re awesome—I want to be just like them!’

What do you love about Waiting for Gonzo, and what makes it stand out?

From the first few pages I just fell in love with the main character Oz. He’s a bit of an idiot to be honest; he’s always putting his foot in it and makes some very bad decisions along the way, but he’s a good egg really and you can’t help rooting for him in spite of everything.

I think that’s one of the main strengths of Dave’s writing: he can make you care deeply about the characters in his books, and you just have to keep on reading to find out what happens to them next. 

The other thing that makes Waiting for Gonzo stand out is how funny it is. There are loads of laugh-out-loud moments—many of them involving Ryan – Oz’s friend who likes to dress up as a hobbit!

What made you want to work in children's publishing?

Well I’ve always loved reading children’s books and this way I get to do it every day and get paid for it! It’s a win-win situation, really. Is editing a debut author any different than editing an established author? Well sort of yes and no. In my experience every author is different and has his or her own individual way of working. I think one of our main jobs as editors is to understand that and adapt our editing style to suit the author.

Don't forget - if you want to win a signed copy of Waiting for Gonzo, just email us at SPACEONTHEBOOKSHELF@YAHOO.COM with your name and address! Competition closes on Friday 10th May.

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