Today, Frances Watts visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her journey and Heroes of the Year, the latest book in the popular Ernie & Maud series.
How did you become a writer?
The first step to becoming a writer was by becoming a reader, and falling in love with books and stories. That certainly inspired me to write my own. But it was really through writing my first book—Kisses for Daddy—that I developed the confidence to keep writing. And the act of writing one book unleashed a floodgate of ideas!
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
There are so many things I love about writing it’s hard to say what I enjoy most! I particularly like bringing characters to life, becoming so caught up in their stories that they seem real to me. And, of course, it’s wonderful when those characters become real to other people.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
It can be hard sometimes to make the words on the page live up to the ideal in your head. And the ideas don’t always flow when you want them to.
What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?
I was—and still am—a book editor, a job I find very rewarding. I work freelance and divide my time between editing and writing.
What is your greatest writing achievement?
I’d say that touching people with my books is the greatest achievement. Having parents tell me that Kisses for Daddy is a book the whole family loves and shares, or a teacher say that she uses Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books with her students, or a child tell me that the Ernie & Maud books are the funniest things they’ve ever read or that they can’t wait for the next book in the Gerander Trilogy. It’s when readers connect with my books that I feel like I’ve really achieved something.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on the final book in the Gerander Trilogy. It’s exciting to be revealing secrets I’ve held on to since the first book, The Song of the Winns—but also sad to be saying goodbye to characters who have been living in my head for a long time.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
Definitely I’d say: read. And think about what you’re reading, think about how the book is crafted. Then I’d say: write for yourself. Don’t try to write for a market or follow a formula; write because you have a story in you that’s busting to get out. Once you have written that story, find yourself a reader, someone who will give you honest feedback, and be prepared to keep working—rewriting and editing—until your manuscript really represents the best you can do.
Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?
Because I write for several different age groups, on the surface they don’t necessarily have that much in common…Then again, I think there is a certain idealism, a certain quirky sense of humour—and there’s usually a talking animal or two!
How many books have you had published?
My new book, Heroes of the Year, is my tenth book.
What inspired you to write this book?
Heroes of the Year is the fourth book in the Ernie & Maud series. In each of the books in the series the main characters face a moral dilemma and, through their friendship, learn something about themselves. This book in particular was inspired by the idea of learning to accept that it’s okay to lose.
What’s it about?
Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud are two very unlikely superheroes—Ernie because he’s just an ordinary kid, and Maud because…she’s a sheep. In Heroes of the Year Ernie and Maud are in the running to win the Superheroes Society’s Heroes of the Year award. But when they’re faced with a terrible dilemma, they have to decide how far they’ll go in their quest for the prize…
What age groups is it for?
Why will kids like it?
It’s full of false moustaches! I think kids will love the humour, while identifying with the characters. And Judy Watson’s illustrations are, as always, hilarious.
Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?
I love Ernie for his honesty and good-heartedness, and Maud for her loyalty and determination. (There is also a group of older superheroes who act as mentors to Ernie and Maud, and they are terrific fun to write, having very human flaws and foibles.)
Is there something that sets this book apart from others?
Did I mention the moustaches…?
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
It’s great to have the opportunity to revisit much-loved characters and see them grow and develop across a series. I also really loved plotting this book and working to achieve a humorous trajectory that ties together different threads in a satisfying resolution.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
See above re the humorous trajectory and satisfying resolution!
Thanks, Frances for visiting Kids’ Book Capers.
Tomorrow, Judy Watson will be here to talk about the illustrating process and in the afternoon we’ll be reviewing Frances and Judy’s new book, Heroes of the Year. Hope you can join us.