Barbara Mitchelhill is our April Author in Residence. Here is our interview with Barbara…
Tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing
I’ve always dabbled in writing and worked briefly as a reporter for the Manchester Evening News. But I began writing professionally quite by accident when I wrote to the BBC asking to be a presenter on children’s television. Rather cheeky but it paid off. To my surprise I was invited to go Television Centre where I spent a marvellous day with a producer, shown around the studios, taken to lunch etc etc. Wonderful! Until I was asked if I had an Equity card which was necessary for all performers in those days. When I said that I didn’t have one, the producer asked me if I had thought of writing for the programme. I replied that I hadn’t – but I would. I sent eight stories, hoping to keep my name in front of him. I never did get to be a presenter but the stories were accepted and so began my writing career. I have never looked back although my writing has changed hugely. And I love it.
Tell us about Road to London and your inspiration for the book
I had decided to write a book set in Tudor times – a period I’ve always found colourful not to mention smelly and dirty. I love the theatre and I love Shakespeare so it was clear that these would be a large part of the story. I knew it must be an adventure (I love adventures!) and I wanted to reflect the hero-worshipping tendencies of teenagers today who hope to emulate the success of pop stars or footballers or Simon Cowell. So my protagonist, Thomas, who lives in Stratford upon Avon in 1599, is no different. He hero-worships the town’s famous son, William Shakespeare, and is determined to join Shakespeare’s Chamberlain’s Men in London.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on an adventure (surprise!) set in 1850. I know I give myself a hard time by fixing a specific date but it really is important when doing the research that I have something to link to. For instance, Euston station was opened at that time and I needed the children in my story to travel 3rd class in the middle of the day. But last week I found that in 1850 there was only one train from Euston carrying 3rd class carriages (which were open to the elements) and that went at 7.45 am. I had to rewrite a whole chapter, sending them 2nd class instead.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I had my first office in what was laughing called a bedroom and was more of a cupboard. But now I have the best office I’ve ever had. It has a large window overlooking fields of sheep, faces south and is filled with light and sun. I have a huge desk which is a complete mess – covered in papers, maps (19th century London) and piles of reference books stuck with post-it notes. Oh yes, and there’s a computer, of course.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
I love theatre and music, reading, walking, singing and meeting with friends. I have four wonderful grandchildren who keep me busy and away from my desk – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can find out more information about Barbara Mitchelhill at www.barbaramitchelhill.com
We have two copies of Road to London to giveaway. Just retweet this post or comment to enter. Open to UK residents only. Closes 30th April at 5pm.