Writing Kids' Books
with Julia Green

A warm welcome to children's author and Course Director for the MA Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, Julia Green. Julia's 18th book, The House of Light, is published on 6th June 2019.

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

I wrote as a child. My first 'book' was typed up by my friend Linda's mum, and she stapled it together and made a cover. The story was heavily influenced by my reading at the time, including On the Banks of Plum Creek and The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I never stopped writing, but I didn't show many people what I was writing.

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

I don't have a typical day - it all depends on what stage I am with a novel, or how much of my University job I have to do. A good  writing day would mean I settled down to write in my notebook  or at the laptop at the kitchen table after breakfast and kept going till lunchtime, with tea and wandering in the garden as required. Mornings are best, and I like a room with a view. I can do editing and rewriting later in the day. Walking helps with ideas, too.

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

Inspiration sometimes comes from a place ( the Outer Hebrides, for To the Edge of the World;  the Isles of Scilly for Breathing Underwater) , sometimes from a character and a situation ( loss; family breakdown, moving house). My books are set in the real world. I write the kind of books I loved as a young person. Having a publisher ask me what I'm going to write next is a very helpful kind of inspiration, too!

Writing Kids Books

Writing Kids' Books: Your latest book, ‘The House of Light’ is published on 6th June. When did you first have the idea for  it? Can you tell us what the book’s about? 

It's a story about freedom and hope. For the first time, I've set my story slightly in the future, in an authoritarian Britain where there are lots of rules, and borders, where people's freedom of movement is restricted, in a world of conflict. The oceans are just beginning to recover from terrible pollution. Thirteen- year- old Bonnie discovers a boy and a boat, and her decision to help him changes everything. It's a story about the power we each have to make a difference, create a better world,  move towards the light.

 It feels very relevant to me, to our own time.

Writing Kids' Books: Out of all of your books, who has/have been your favourite character/s to write so far and why? 

I love all my characters, of course! I can't choose one, though I did love writing Bonnie's story, in The House of Light. I loved writing about Mara in To the Edge of the World, too, and Noah in The Wilderness War ....

Writing Kids' Books: What did it feel like when you had your first book published?

Blue Moon was my first published novel, back in 2003,  and hearing that Puffin wanted to publish it was one of the best days of my life! It was something I'd always hoped for and wanted. It made me very happy. Each new book feels exciting, too. 

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

I'm at the very beginning of a new novel for young people. Too early to tell you more!

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

 I love the early stages when I'm writing and drawing in my notebook, when I'm full of the sense of possibility and excitement for a new story. I like it when it's finished too!

Writing Kids' Books: What's the most rewarding thing about your position as Course Director for the MA Writing for Young People  at Bath Spa University?

It's rewarding helping students get better as writers and helping them find their own voice, and  seeing them gain confidence as well as skills as writers.  I  am particularly  proud of the strong writing community we have created, of writers for young people supporting each other, often long after they've finished their MA. It's rewarding to work alongside my wonderful colleagues, too. I love teaching. I've been Course Director since the MA Writing for Young People began in 2004, and more than 55 graduates have now been published, or are about to be. It's very rewarding to see that.

Writing Kids' Books: How do you balance your own writing career with your teaching?

I've somehow managed to do both, and there's something very useful about having a focus on helping other people, rather than only on my own writing. Sometimes it's very hard to get enough time for my own writing. I work  hard. I have good self discipline. (I learned that when my children were very young - I used all the time they slept very efficiently, for writing, long before I got published.)

Writing Kids' Books: Is there a book you wish you had written and why?

We can only write the books we can and do. So, no. But there are many books I admire and love, of course.

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

Well, plenty - a whole MA year full of it! Come and do the MA Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University! But basically, write. And read widely. Just do it.

Writing Kids' Books: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given about your writing career?

My first agent, the late and beloved Maggie Noach, said don't give up the day job! She was right, because it's important to be realistic about how very hard it is to make a living as a children's writer.

Julia, thank you for joining us and congratulations on the publication of The House of Light.

The House of Light is published by OUP Oxford.

You can follow Julia on Twitter and find out more about her writing on her website

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