A while back Stef posted a partial review of The Adventures of George and Timmy. Although it doesn’t say on the cover (though some later editions have an addendum inside) it was written by Sue Welford. Sue actually visited the blog and commented a few times on that review and was lovely enough to agree to do a little interview with us.
WERE YOU A FAN OF ENID BLYTON AS A CHILD?
Yes, an enormous fan. I really identified with her characters who enabled me to disappear into another world where kids did the exciting things and parents never interfered.
WHICH OF HER BOOKS DID YOU READ?
I think I must have read any I could get my hot little hands on. I did read the F.F. but my favourite books were the Adventure Series. I also learned all my knowledge of nature from Enid Blyton’s Nature Book and managed to obtain a copy a couple of years ago. I loved Kiki ( is that right? must look it up) best of all and, of course, George who I saw as the first emancipated female (along with Jo in Little Women). I loved Timmy too, of course. I almost certainly liked animals more than people (especially grown-ups).
DID YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE BOOK?
Not sure… loved them all.
HOW DID YOUR COLLABORATION WITH HODDER COME ABOUT?
I was commissioned by Hodder Children’s books to write prequels to the Famous Five featuring George and Tim before she met the cousins. This was probably due to my work as Lucy Daniels on the Animal Ark series. I didn’t actually ask why – I was just honoured to be asked (and the pay was good!)
WHAT SORT OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR THE SERIES?
The request for synopses actually came through when I was on holiday in New Zealand (before I emigrated) so research entailed rummaging through second hand shops to find as many Famous Five books as I was able, to hurriedly re-read them and write six synopses before I returned to the UK. Obviously I read more of them before writing the actual books. They were as I remembered them but, of course, a child’s eyes do not see stories the same way that adults see them. I was horrified to learn that Anne only ever was allowed to make the tea! Why had I never noticed that before?
DID YOUR OWN DOGS INSPIRE YOU FOR TIMMY’S BEHAVIOUR?
My dogs inspire me the whole time and experiences with various Jack Russell and Labrador puppies have given me a vital insight into puppy behaviour.
HAVE THEY EVER HAD ANY ADVENTURES LIKE TIMMY?
The whole of life is an adventure to a dog!
HAVE YOU EVER STUMBLED UPON ANY ADVENTURES LIKE GEORGE?
Sadly, no, but I live in hope.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE SERIES TO WRITE?
I actually loved writing all of them and of course, the best part, is when you actually see your book in print and realise that the illustrator is on the same wave length. Lesley Harker was chosen from several illustrators including the artist who illustrated the original Harry Potter series. I still have some of the artwork from potential illustrators and none are as good as Lesley.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
People always ask me this and it’s really hard to answer. Publishing has changed unrecognisably over the years. I personally believe that you cannot be taught creative writing – it’s something inside of you that makes it easy to do… a gift I suppose. I ran summer workshops at Southampton University for some years and out of all the students attending the courses only one ever achieved publication (Judy Waite). However, if you are prepared to paper your walls with rejection slips then go ahead. Publishers almost never take unsolicited manuscripts, they look at scripts from literary agents but an agent will not take you on unless you have a book published – Catch 22. The main thing is to study the market and go for the latest trend – that way you may have some luck. I do believe that it is luck… remember how many times Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games were rejected? (and Watership Down!) However, always write if you must… you never know..!