In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.
On their Santa lists this year, alongside the usuals – stuffed toys and Sylvanian Families – both of my daughters (aged 9 and 6) have included ‘books’. The older one, in fact, has put ‘fat books’, which makes me realise that she’s growing up, although I’m not planning to surprise her with Anna Karenina, as fat as that book might be.
As a children’s writer, of course, both of my kids being avid readers makes me very happy indeed. Reading with them is one of my favourite things, and it has undoubtedly helped my own writing, too: it’s made me realise what I like in a children’s book. I like short chapters. Lots of humour. Three dimensional characters. And a plot where you can’t guess exactly how it will finish (although there’s always a very good chance it won’t end in a bloodbath, I suppose).
Another thing I’ve picked up from my daughters’ books is that there are no new ideas in kids’ fiction, not really: it’s just about taking something that’s been done before and making it different. My first series, for example, is about a pet hamster, which a quick google will tell you is hardly ground-breaking, but I made the hamster in my books a bit different: he’s not at all cute – he’s grumpy, sarcastic and super-smart, and is given a very unfortunate name.
Anyway, I hope you have a great Christmas, and that you get whatever is on your list. And if you happen to be asking Santa for books about a genius hamster called Jasper Stinkybottom, then so much the better.