5 Questions for Maya Leonard

Where did you write Beetle Boy?

I wrote Beetle Boy in a tiny lean-to damp conservatory in a shoe-box-sized flat in Finsbury Park, London between the hours of 5am – 7am.

Who is your favourite character in Beetle Boy and why?

That’s like being asked to choose which is your favourite child! I love them all – even the bad ones. The character that is most like me is Virginia, so it delights me when people enjoy her.

How long did it take you to write Beetle Boy?

It took me ten years from the moment I had the idea to the day it appeared on bookshop shelves. I had to do lots of research as I didn’t know anything about insects when I started. It took six months to write the first draft and a further year of editing to produce a book that was good enough for a publisher to want to print.

What advice do you have for young writers?

When I was at school I struggled with bad handwriting and found grammar really hard. I thought this meant I couldn’t be a writer, but it’s not true. Talent is another word for ‘hard work’, and if you really want to be good at something you have to work hard at it. If you want to write stories you must experience lots of different types of stories, that means books, films, plays, poems, songs, operas, ballets and video games. Notice what you like and don’t like and why, and then write. Write every day and you will become good at telling stories.

How would you describe yourself as a child?

I was a bookish loner. I was called a ‘square’ at school, which is the old word for ‘geek’ but I wasn’t brainy. I tried hard and did okay in tests, but didn’t get A grades. I liked being on my own, so I floated around friendship circles always on the outskirts, which meant I got on okay with everyone, and wasn’t bullied, but I wasn’t popular. I was rubbish at sports, but the thing that defined me was that I loved theatre, and got involved in every school play, usually playing a main part.

More About M.G. Leonard