Q&A with Gillian Shields

Today we share with you our Q&A with Gillian Shields..

Who were your favourite authors as a child?

The usual suspects! I loved the Narnia books, and A Little Princess, and the wonderful E Nesbit books – my favourite was Harding’s Luck, which I found unbearably sad as well as funny and exciting. I also adored A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley which had a similar poignant, haunting atmosphere. But for jolly adventures nothing could beat Malory Towers by Enid Blyton and the Jill pony stories by Ruby Ferguson. I still have the battered copies of my childhood favourites on a bookshelf in the corner of my study!

You write for a wide range of age groups, what tempted you to do that?

I started writing picture book texts, encouraged by my great friend the illustrator Sarah Massini. My son was only four then so it seemed natural to write for very young children.  I also have an older daughter though, and I have taught in a girls’ senior school, so I was keen to write something for teenage girls. It’s such a different challenge to write full length novels and not rely on fantastic illustrators to help the story along.

Of all of the characters you have created, if you had to choose, who would be your favourite?

In the Actual Real Reality of Jennifer James, I love Jennifer and there are lots of fun characters amongst her school mates and the celebrities who enter the reality TV show held at her school, like Jeremy Lurcher the disgraced MP and the glamour model Katie Spice. However, one of my favourites has to be Jennifer’s mum, Sheila. She is a militant feminist, and calls herself Jocasta and takes up all kinds of radical (and hopeless) good causes, but really she is a warm muddle of motherliness underneath it all, and desperate for her husband’s attention. She was great fun to create. I am also very happy with my picture book character DOGFISH, who is a goldfish who tries to please his little boy owner by acting like the dog that the boy really wants. It was exciting when we heard the CD version of DOGFISH being read by David Tennant – Dr Who reading my book! My children were actually quite impressed with me for a moment . . .

You have several titles coming out shortly – tell us a little about them.

WHEN THE WORLD IS READY FOR BED is for very young children. It’s a gentle goodnight lullaby with the most gorgeous illustrations by Anna Currey. She has turned the family in the story into irresistible bunny rabbits. A follow-up book about the arrival of a new baby (or bunny), WHEN THE WORLD WAS WAITING FOR YOU, is due out next year.

THE ACTUAL REAL REALITY OF JENNIFER JAMES is a send up of reality TV. Jennifer is a brainy girl whose mother Sheila/Jocasta (see above!) has banned all TV and popular culture from the house. Imagine her horror when Jennifer gets a place on a reality TV show, called DOWN THE BOG, in which celebrities attempt to become teachers in Jennifer’s ‘bog-standard’ comprehensive school.  There is a prize for the most popular Celeb, and also a prize for the most popular student – an all expenses paid scholarship at a posh boarding school. Jennifer is desperate to win, but has to overcome the minor obstacle of being the Most Unpopular Girl in the School.   The contestants get involved with fashion shows, camping trips, singing contests etc and much chaos and humiliation follows for poor Jennifer, only relieved by the hope that True Love might be just around the corner. It is written as Jennifer’s diary and was such fun to do, following her journey as she finds out where her heart really lies.

BETRAYAL is the sequel to IMMORTAL, part of a series of books for teenage girls set in a creepy gothic boarding school in the middle of the Yorkshire moors. The series (published by Harpercollins) revolves around four girls – three of them are friends at the school and one is the spirit of a Victorian girl who used to live there – who discover that they possess strange elemental powers. Some of the teachers at the school are part of an evil cult of Dark Sisters who are determined to gain immortal powers and destroy whatever stands in their way. It’s up to the four heroines to stop them . . . .

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just finished writing the third book in the series, ETERNAL. It will be published in 2011.

Aside from reading and writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I love walking with my dog in the beautiful Sussex countryside around my home, and being with my friends and family. I am currently trying to learn Italian as my fantasy is to have a little tiny house on Sicily one day, with my very own lemon tree.

If you were to recommend a book(s)to get children hooked on reading, what would they be?

When my son was about six years old, his teacher read BEAVER TOWERS by Nigel Hinton in class and he loved it so much it really got him hooked on reading. My daughter preferred non-fiction reading, but she loved WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT by Judith Kerr, because she knew it was based on true events. And I was delighted to received letters from parents saying that my own series for young girls, MERMAID SOS, has turned their children onto reading, so I was very proud of that achievement!

Thanks very much, Gillian. We’ll soon be bringing you our review of Immortal and Betrayal, and a chance to win a signed copy of Immortal, so don’t miss that! In the meantime, all 3 of Gillian’s new books are in our shop now..