Thursday 21 February 2013

Exclusive Interview with Lauren Child MBE, Award-Winning Children's Author

Guest Questions from Year 2 at Newborough Primary School, Peterborough (who are currently doing an author study on Lauren)

Where do you get your ideas from?

Ideas come from everywhere. Can be from just looking out of my window, or from books, films and often my memory. It may be from little things I notice when I visit people’s houses or things I overhear when standing in the supermarket queue. It can be things people tell me, funny things, strange things or touching things or things that are totally imagined, things that just float through my mind.

How long do you take to write your stories?

I am never exactly sure how long it takes me to write my books as I am usually working on several stories or ideas at the same time as lots of other things. For my Clarice Bean novels, it took me about 18 months, once I had properly started writing them. For the Ruby Redfort novels I have to be a bit faster.

What made you base your ideas on fairytale stories and characters?

My book 'Beware the Storybook Wolves' was inspired by a reader who wrote to me and told me the lion on the front of my book, 'I Want a Pet' had frightened him. This made me think about characters coming out of the book. Then with 'Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book', I reversed this idea and had the character fall into the book. When we did 'The Princess and the Pea', I had wanted to work with the fantastic photographer Polly Borland, and thought about a story that would work well in photographs, something familiar which we could give a different approach to. We decide to use a classic fairytale but have everything in miniature.

What is your favourite book that you have written and why?

There are a few that I am very close to. 'Clarice Bean That’s M'e was the book that launched me as a writer. I stretched myself a lot when I did it. I wrote something that really appealed to me and was about me. At the time it was quite different from what picture books were usually like.

Is there anything you would like to write about that you haven't written about yet?

Yes, there are quite a lot. I’d like to write for older children and adults. I think a lot about quite serious ideas that humour could be added to.  I’d like to write about tough subjects, but address them in a humorous or comical way, a bit like the way children can talk about serious subjects in a matter-of-fact way.

Questions from Book a Poet:

What is your favourite medium of art to use?

When I’m illustrating, I like to be able to use all kinds of medium so I don’t restrict myself to one thing. I would find it very hard to just work in watercolours, for example. Collage suits me well, cutting out and sticking paper, different fabric patterns, but I also use oils, watercolours, gouache.

When you create your books do the pictures or words come first, or do the words change as you draw the illustrations?

I think a lot in pictures so I very rarely need to draw when I’m thinking about an idea. I can see it all in my head.

Your new book, ‘Ruby Redfort 2: Take Your Last Breath’ is just out – and we’re enjoying reading about the schoolgirl detective’s latest adventure at sea. Is it a challenge to write for different age ranges?

Don’t really think it’s a challenge. I try not to think about the age-group that I’m writing for too much because everybody’s taste, reading age is different so I don’t really write for a particular age-group – I always feel that a book is for anybody. The challenge with the Ruby books is plot as they are very plot-driven. The structure and tying up the different threads is the tricky thing.

Ruby’s character is from your Clarice Bean novel, was it easy to write the novels for Ruby, as a much-loved character, or did that make it harder to do?

I think what was hard was working out who she was. I had always talked about her from Clarice’s perspective. if Ruby was too silly, the books would be boring so it took some time to work out what kind of book I wanted to write.

Why do you think the spy genre is so popular with young readers?

I think the spy genre is popular with all age readers. The Ruby books are as much thrillers as secret agent books. Reading them you can explore a dangerous and exciting world, of jeopardy, danger and adventures, from a safe place.

What’s the best thing about being an author / illustrator?

It’s the best thing and the worst thing at the same time. You are sort of in charge of your own working life so you can work when you like. You have to motivate yourself and generate ideas. The hardest thing can be fitting it all into the time schedule you’ve got – that can feel like pressure. But coming up with ideas can be a really lovely job as well.

Do you have any tips for budding authors / illustrators?

My advice would be to write what you enjoy. You need to write about something that interests you. It might be something funny that you see out of the window or something that you’ve imagined or about your family. When I was young I wrote and created comic books with a friend – I loved that. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re writing or you won’t be able to carry on.

Do you have any projects in the pipeline you can share with us?

I’m working on the third Ruby book at the moment. Ruby’s in training, learning another agent skill and it will involve another code based on a different sense.

Where can fans find out more about your work?

There’s my own website where you can find out more about the books. There are some frequently asked questions here too. The Ruby website is It’s got some great games and codes to crack.

Lauren Child Biography

Lauren is the author of the phenomenally successful CHARLIE AND LOLA books, (as well as Associate Producer on the TV show of the same name), Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort books. Lauren’s books have been translated into dozens of languages around the world and she has won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize (four times), the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Red House Children’s Book Award. Lauren was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.

‘Ruby Redfort 2: Take Your Last Breath’
Published by Harper Collins Children's Books
RRP £12.99 (hardback)
ISBN 978-0007334087

Hey, buster! Normal life is a total yawn. So break out boredom with multi-million-copy bestselling author Lauren Child, and meet your new favourite heroine… Ruby Redfort: detective, secret agent, thirteen-year-old kid.

Everyone’s favourite kid detective is back for a second mind-blowing instalment, packed with all the off-the-wall humour, action and friendship of the first book. This time, though, it’s an adventure on the wide open ocean, and Ruby is all at sea…

Can she crack the case of the Twinford pirates while evading the clutches of a vile sea monster as well as the evil Count von Viscount?

Well, you wouldn’t want to bet against her…


“The new Ruby Redfort book is utterly exceptionordinarily brilliant” – Clarice Bean

“Lauren Child has put imagination and fun back into the real worlds of childhood.” – Julia Eccleshare, Guardian

“Lauren Child is so good it’s exhilarating” – The Independent

“What more could adventure-loving girls want?” – The Sunday Times.


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