Writing Kids' Books
with Gerald Killingworth

Writing Kids Books with Gerald Killingworth

We're very lucky to have children's author, Gerald Killingworth, with us at WritingNV to talk to us about his latest novel The Deadworld of Lanthorne Ghules.

In addition to writing, Gerald's interests include English folk music and song and morris dancing. He lives in Dorset. 

Writing Kids' Books:       Can you tell us how old you were you when you first started writing?

When I was 10 I wrote a story called ‘Inca Gold’ of which I was hugely proud. It was about twenty foolscap sheets long which I thought was an exhausting length to have written. Years later I discovered that my mother had thrown it away. I am only just beginning to forgive her.

Writing Kids' Books:      What does your typical writing day look like? 

Pen - Writing Kids Books with Gerald Killingworth

I don’t have a typical writing day. There are long periods when I just wander about in a day-dreaming sort of way, trying to sort out characters and events in my head. Then, when enough material has accumulated there I put it down in longhand, often starting late at night. I can sit scribbling like this for many hours on end, until 2 or 3 in the morning usually. I am definitely not one of those writers who can start promptly at 9 a.m. Perhaps I’m just lazy and unprofessional!

Writing Kids' Books: From where do you get your inspiration for your writing?

I think most writers are like me in waiting for ideas to hit them, often of an unexpected kind. I can’t force ideas – I do think writers have to wait until whatever it is in our brains that gives rise to words is ready to present us with a story, poem or play. Now that I am no longer teaching and my head isn’t full of thoughts about examination marks and lesson preparation, I find that I day-dream much more and if I am awake at, say 3 or 4 in the morning, ideas can suddenly appear. At such moments it is vital to take notice, even if am annoyed at having to get out of bed to find a pen and paper. I have written complete poems at such times – and published them! A couple of years ago, I suddenly saw, in my mind, two people engaged in a conversation, a teenager and a threatening figure. I had no idea who they were but I got up and wrote several thousand words of their conversation and it has been the starting point for a Young Adult novel I am writing in fits and starts.

Writing Kids' Books: What are you currently working on? 

I am revising another spooky Middle Grade children’s novel with the word ‘Ghosts’ in the title. I am also trying to sort out a final chapter for an adult psychological thriller. I am not happy with any of the versions of the final chapter I have written so far.

Ghost with a book - Writing Kids Books with Gerald Killingworth

Writing Kids' Books: How do you balance your writing with your PhD work?

Well, writing stories is much more fun because you can make everything up and no-one can tell you that you are wrong because it’s your story and you make all the decisions. Writing a scholarly thesis is quite different because you know that the examiners will be jump on anything you say that isn’t accurate or proven. I use the stories as a welcome break from the PhD research when I can’t take any more of staring at dark Elizabethan lettering on the computer screen.

Writing Kids' Books: What is your favourite part of the writing process and why?

I really enjoy revising the first drafts that I have written by hand. Of course I end up cutting a lot, but there is a lot of satisfaction to be had from polishing the rough story you have set down.

Writing Kids' Books: Throughout your writing career so far, who has been your favourite character to write and why? 

I have really enjoyed creating the character Edward Harry in my adult fantasy ‘Hy Brazil’. He is extraordinarily full of himself, a kind of anti-hero, because being an English man in Elizabethan Ireland he really does believe that he is the bee’s knees. He has a lot to learn, but I loved writing his sardonic dialogue.

Hy Brazil book cover - Writing Kids Books with Gerald Killingworth

Writing Kids' Books: If you could choose one published book that you wish you had written, what would it be and why?

 My favourite novel of all is ‘Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf because the writing glows on the page and fills me with jealousy at her genius. My favourite children’s novel is perhaps ‘The Midnight Folk’ by John Masefield. I have a weakness for any book with magic in it and this one has that ‘Classical’ feel that merges the strange and the magical into the everyday and believable.

Writing Kids' Books: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Keep on writing. Always believe that there is an editor or publisher out there who is waiting for you to find them. Keep sending out material and never sink into an ‘It’s not fair. I can’t be bothered any more’ mood. Whenever I hear about a publishing opportunity, I send out material, which is just how I came to be published by the wonderful Pushkin Press! Together with another 248 people I responded to an open-for-one-day submission window and found myself one of two writers chosen. To say I was flabbergasted, flattered and excited would be a complete under-statement.

And finally, what's the best piece of advice you've been given about your writing career?

Keep on writing and sending out material. Don’t complain that it isn’t fair if at first no-one tells you that you are as brilliant as you think you are; it’s just life and have to accept it. Be thicker-skinned.

The Dead World of Lanthorne Ghules

The novel follows Edwin whose life is changing and not for the better. He's moved to a new house, started at a new school and worst of all is the arrival of his new baby sister Mandoline.

But things might not be as bad as he fears, as Edwin makes an unusual pen-pal, Lanthorne, who introduces him to a strange world filled with dark secrets and thrilling adventures.

The fun and excitement takes a dark twist when Mandoline is taken by Lanthorne's evil Aunty Necra. Together, Edwin and Lanthorne must save baby Mandoline and at the same time discover the terrible secret so many people seem to know about but refuse to share with Edwin.

Gerald, thank you so much for joining us and providing us with such great advice. Huge congratulations on the publication of The Deadworld of Lanthorne Ghules.

The Deadworld of Lanthorne Ghules is published by Pushkin Press.

You can follow Gerald on Twitter

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