Where did you write Brightstorm?
Mostly at home on my laptop in any available space I could find (my house is busy with three teenagers!), also in the library on my lunch breaks from my other job in marketing.
What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always loved stories of real life adventurers and explorers like Ernest Shackleton, Amelia Earhart and Edmund Hillary. About ten years ago I bought a wonderful non-fiction book called A Teacup in a Storm which gives snippets from real life exploration. In the book I discovered the advert that Shackleton was said to have placed to find his crew for the 1914 Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition.
When I read it I wondered who would be bonkers enough to answer such an advert – they would have to have a very good reason. I knew there was a new story in there with a similar advert as the call to adventure. Then the twins, Arthur and Maudie, popped into my head and the situation with their father. I’ve always loved creating my own worlds and I wanted new places to be explored where I could invent creatures and have more interesting modes of transport (hence thought-wolves and sky-ships!).
Who is your favourite character in Brightstorm and why?
Oh gosh, so hard to choose! I think I have to go for both Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm as a package because I love their determination, inner grit, tenacity and kindness. Even though things go wrong (they have some dreadful things happen to them!) they know that there is always a way through and that with courage, positivity, and the right friends by your side, you can achieve amazing things! These are all qualities I really admire in people.
Or maybe Tuyok is my favourite, such a wonderful kind thought-wolf … or Felicity Wiggety … or Harriet Culpepper … or …
How long did it take you to write Brightstorm?
About a year, but I was working full time too. My next story needed to be written much more quickly!
Describe your book in three words:
How would you describe yourself as a child?
Smiley, imaginative, loyal to friends, studious, and unsure of where I fitted in the world, a bit like Arthur…
What was your favourite book as a child?
Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation – it was the book that made me realise that imagination has no boundaries. When I read Rebecca’s World, I knew that I wanted to create worlds of my own through story. I love the fact that our imaginations are as large as we want them to be. It’s pretty empowering. No matter what goes on in life, we all have or imaginations. It’s a great leveller.
What was your favourite subject at school and why?
I honestly enjoyed them all and was a bit of an all-rounder! I loved the arts, sciences, English, maths, geography, PE – it’s probably why writing fantasy is a good fit for me as I get to explore all my interests in some way. I especially loved physics, but gave up because I was the only girl in the class and I didn’t have anyone encouraging me to persist. It still bothers me a little that I didn’t carry on… This was a fair while ago so I like to think things are getting more equal now, although there is still a way to go. But then I don’t regret the path I ended up on at all, and it’s probably why I love to write characters like Maudie Brightstorm and Harriet Culpepper who are talented inventor engineers in a world where gender has never been a barrier. I hope these characters encourage both girls and boys to follow their dreams even if there are lots of barriers to break through.
If you had the opportunity to meet any author (alive or dead!), who would you meet – and why?
This may not sound very original, but I think I have to say J.K. Rowling! I would love to chat about how the plotting for The Prisoner of Azkaban came together along with the wider arc of the books. Azkaban is my personal favourite because there are so many amazing elements to enjoy and the plot is simply brilliant!
What advice do you have for young writers?
Believe that it is something you can achieve if you want to. Much of writing is about being bold and tenacious, being willing to fail and learn, and being committed to learning your craft. Also, know that writing is about so much more than the physical process of ‘writing’. I spend much of my time doing a variety of creatively linked activities: listening to music for inspiration (sound tracks are brilliant as they are a direct route to a particular emotion); creating and using Pinterest boards for inspiration; drawing maps and diagrams to help me uncover and untwist plot and character; walks to dream and freely think about story – it’s amazing how the answers and new ideas can come out of the blue if you give yourself some dream time.