What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
I loved all the books by Antonia Forest about the Marlow twins and their family – they’re such good stories and so well written. And there are many great touches – Nicola Marlow is obsessed with Horatio Nelson and has a picture of him on her bedside table at boarding school, alongside another of her brother’s war ship. You wouldn't get that in a book for girls today, I suspect!
What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?
I still like the above series, but I’m hugely fond of anything by Hilary McKay and am very much looking forward to my children being old enough for her Casson family stories. They love her Charlie books, though, and it’s certainly no great hardship to have to read those over and over again. And Philip Reeve’s MORTAL ENGINES sequence is brilliant – PREDATOR’S GOLD being the one I like best, I think, though it changes each time I read them. But I suppose my current favourite, simply for all the pleasure it’s brought my children and the peaceful car journeys it’s brought me, is YOU CHOOSE by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt. Total genius!
What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?
The fact that they can turn small blobs of jelly into the readers of the future. And conversely, stop them ever picking up a book again. It’s a big responsibility, and no one should publish a book for children lightly. Or think that it’s in any way easy. (Mentioning no names, Martin Amis…)
Is it easier to edit a debut author’s book or an established author?
I think it entirely depends on the book and the author. Some debut writers manage to produce extremely polished books that only need a tweak or two; some don’t. And the same goes for established authors. Either way, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable process, and I’m very grateful that I’m allowed to meddle in the way I am!
What do you love about, ‘Faerie Tribes – The Crystal Mirror,’ and what makes it stand out?
It’s got great atmosphere and pace, and I really like the relationship between the characters. They’re very well drawn. But what I like best about it is that it raises the possibility of transformation – one day, you’re on the school bus, thinking about what to have for tea; the next, you’ve got wings and you’re about to fly out the window! I like that.
How many people have worked on ‘Faerie Tribes – The Crystal Mirror,’ and for how long?
Well, there’s Paula, obviously, and me, then there’s the excellent designer, the two cover artists and a number of freelance copy-editors and proofreaders. And the typesetter. So loads! I made Paula a six-book offer in April 2012 (from a service station on the M5) and we’ve just sent off the final files to the printer for publication in May. Then there’s all the people who’ve been busily selling the series in to retailers, presenting it at book fairs, ordering paper and negotiating with printers, arranging shipping and delivery details, producing sales material and just talking to all and sundry about what a great book it is. Quite an operation!
What made you want to work in children’s publishing?
Well, I didn’t, really. I sort of fell into it, after doing an English degree and working for a literary agent for a while. But I’m very glad I did!
What are the things that changed most from first draft to final draft and is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Paula has been writing some excellent books for younger readers, (THE RESCUE PRINCESSES – check them out!) and I think the thing we had to work on most with THE CRYSTAL MIRROR was keeping it consistently appropriate for an older age group. I think it must be very hard for writers to work on books for different age groups at the same time, and in order to keep publishing momentum going, Paula had to go back and forth between the series, so sometimes THE CRYSTAL MIRROR tone felt younger, or one of the Rescue Princesses said something that made her sound older than she was.