• If you could sneak a peek inside the brain of a children’s author it would be like staring down at story spaghetti. We’re not only trying to figure out how one book starts and finishes – plus noodling over how to get everything in the middle to make sense along the way – we’ve also got snatches of other stories slithering and sloshing around in there, waiting impatiently for us to notice them.
• Authors are experts on every current children’s book around. Okay, with the odd exception, that’s a lie. Rather than lazing around enjoying the luxury of reading, we’re likely to be found writing frantically in our rooms/sheds/caves/random corners at every available opportunity. Writing is a pretty great, if intense, job that takes a lot of effort and time (recently, author Tommy Donbavand posted a quote he’d come across that said, “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life”). But in the wee gaps between writing, thinking about writing and living our normal lives, we do try to squeeze in reading other authors’ books, and treasure the experience like someone’s just passed us a Ferrero Rocher. #nomnom
• We might deliberately avoid reading other authors’ books, though. Why? Well, imagine the work part of our brains as greedy great magpies, gathering inspiration from here, there and everywhere. Only sometimes we can’t remember where the ‘everywhere’ was exactly. So if we avoiding reading authors’ books that are similar to ours, the greedy great magpies can’t accidently nick an idea out of them!
• Writing is like stroking the most adorable little dog which keeps switching from puppy-eyed cuteness to nipping and yapping at us. When we’re lost in our story, picturing every scene and spoken sentence, and our chapters are slotting into place like numbers in a Sudoku puzzle – that’s the stroky, fun part. The nipping comes when we get stuck in a dead-end in our story, or have brain-freeze, even though we haven’t had any ice-cream. The yapping comes when we’re trying to do other, non-writery stuff, like go to sleep; “Is that character right? Would he really say that? Is that chapter ending enough of a cliffhanger? Is the beginning of that chapter hooky enough? Is the middle a bit soggy? Why is it 4.30am?”…
• At school events, festivals and library visits, we come across like we totally know what we’re doing. I mean, look at us; we talk for an hour, with people staring at us and don’t even flinch. What’s happening here is a very clever magic trick which we authors have taught ourselves to do; we’re wearing a Cloak of Confidence. Underneath, we’re secretly in our Pyjamas of Shyness.
• When reviewers say stuff about our books being “a wonderful insight/exploration/investigation of the complexities of friendship/family/teenage angst”, we think, “Oh… really?” while blinking in surprise. We didn’t know we were doing that. We were just writing a story.
• Even when we’ve written a gazillion books, maybe 80 or so, we mutter to ourselves, “Will anyone like this?” and feel ridiculously grateful when we realise they do, and want to buy cake for every reader out there…
Karen McCombie is the best-selling author of more than 80 books. The second in her fabulously funny ‘St Grizzle’s’ series –‘St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies’ – is out now, from Stripes. In her spare time she likes to randomly potter and pootle, eat crisps and try to stop her fierce cat Dizzy from fighting with Norman the geek cat next door.