Former Children’s Laureate and author of over 100 books, Dame Jacqueline Wilson is a national treasure. We caught up with her to discuss her £1 book published exclusively for World Book Day.
Tell us about your World Book Day £1 book, that readers will be able to redeem their World Book Day token against. It’s a spin-off from The Butterfly Club?
I wrote a story about two very different girls, small, slightly spoiled Tina and big, scary bully Thelma – who bond in a surprising way when they try to make a butterfly garden at school.
In Butterfly Beach, Selma and Tina are now good friends, having been adversaries. Was that an important transition for you to make for the pair?
I wanted to find out if their friendship would last, and how they would get on if they went on holiday together. I tell the story from Selma’s point of view, so you can understand why she’s always pretended to be so tough and scary. She’s also been given her first mobile phone so of course she’s obsessed with taking selfies.
Where was your favourite holiday?
I love going for old-fashioned British seaside holidays just like Tina and Selma in Butterfly Beach. I especially love walking along the beautiful unspoiled Holkham beach in North Norfolk.
Is holiday your main reading time?
I read at least three books a week. I read first and last thing in bed at night, and whenever I can manage inbetween! I’m currently reading My Grandmothers and I by Diana Holman-Hunt. It’s an adult book but it’s about Diana as a little girl and I think most children would love it and find it very funny, if astonishing.
What was your favourite book or character as a child?
I loved Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, and read it at least ten times. It’s a story about three sisters who go to stage school, and so I pretended I was the fourth sister! I longed to go to ballet lessons myself but my mum wouldn’t let me – so I pretended my pink bedroom slippers were ballet shoes and twirled around our flat imagining I was dancing beautifully!
What does a typical day look like?
I write first thing in the morning. I feed the cat, take the dog out into the garden, make myself a cup of coffee, and then go back to bed. I try to write 1000 words – and then I can get on with the rest of my day.
Do you and your illustrator Nick Sharratt work closely together, or separately on the text and artwork?
I get an idea and keep it all to myself for a while, but when I’m sure it will work and I start writing, I get in touch with Nick and tell him what it’s going to be about. My new full-length book coming out in May, Wave me Goodbye, is about evacuees, and Nick has done an incredible job researching 1939 and his illustrations are totally brilliant.
You’ve written over 100 books. What do you do in your spare time – if you have any?
I have to spend a lot of time responding to emails and writing letters to fans, and I also do various committee and charity work – but I also like to have fun, so I go shopping, visit art galleries, see friends and walk my dog Jackson.
How did you get started as a writer?
I wrote hundreds of stories when I was a schoolgirl – and then worked on a teenage magazine Jackie when I was seventeen. I loved being a journalist but knew I really wanted to be a novelist. I wrote several novels that weren’t good enough to get published, but was lucky enough to get one accepted when I was 23 – and then carried on and on writing!
Any advice for other budding writers?
I wouldn’t wait for ‘inspiration’ – I’d advise writing a little piece every single day whether you feel like it or not. I don’t reread my work each day or I find I’m just fiddling around rewriting all the time instead of forging on with the story. It’s good to get right to the end of a piece of work and then start rewriting.
What’s the best part of being a writer?
It’s wonderful when you get so absorbed in your story that your fingers fly over the computer keys and you almost forget you’re writing. You’re just lost in your own imaginary world.
What’s the worst?
When you suddenly lose confidence and feel your story’s no good. It happens every single time I write a book. You just have to take a deep breath and carry on, hoping for the best, and then rewrite later on when you’ve got to the end.
Tell us something about you that will surprise or shock us.
I’m not an athletic lady but I used to swim fifty lengths of the local pool every morning.
What’s next for you?
Wave me Goodbye, my book about evacuees in the Second World War, is coming out in May. I’m now working hard on the sequel to Clover Moon, which is called Rose Rivers. Clover is a very poor Victorian girl whereas Rose is rich and privileged, but her life isn’t always easy!
To read more about Butterfly Beach and how to redeem your World Book Day £1 token, plus download Jacqueline Wilson activity sheets, click here