Elen Caldecott, author of How Kirsty Jenkins Stole The Elephant, How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini, Operation Eiffel Tower and most recently The Mystery of Wickworth Manor is holding a seminar at the FCBG conference later this month.
We caught up recently and here’s how our conversation went:
FCBG: Did you always want to be an author?
Elen Caldecott: I always wrote for fun, however, I somehow didn’t realise that I could be an author. To my mind, authors were in the same category as ballerinas or pop stars – I knew they were jobs, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing them. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realised I could take writing more seriously.
FCBG: Who was particularly encouraging and supportive of you when you did start to think writing for a living might be the right route for you?
Elen Caldecott: My husband was incredibly supportive. He had just finished a four year course at uni. He said, ‘before we get used to having two incomes again, do you want to study something?’ I admitted that I would like to take an MA in Writing for Children, which would necessitate a 400mile house-move. He didn’t even blink before agreeing.
FCBG: How has being an author match your expectations? What do you enjoy most about being an author? What is the most challenging thing for you as an author?
Elen Caldecott: I don’t know if I had any expectations, really. I hoped that my first book would be published. And I hoped it would be read and enjoyed by children. Beyond that, I didn’t have any wild expectations. The MA spent a lot of time focussing on the realities of the business.
I most enjoy the time I spend writing, especially editing. That’s where I feel the craft really stretches me. I think the uncertainty is the worst thing – not knowing from year to year whether you will have any income is disconcerting.
FCBG: You were recently shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award, which is owned and co-ordinated by the FCBG. What was it like to be shortlisted? What was the ceremony like?
Elen Caldecott: It was absolutely amazing to be shortlisted. It’s an award that I’d discussed with Bloomsbury in the past, but, to be honest, didn’t really think I would ever get close to (I am a dream-small, don’t get disappointed sort of person). It’s an award with such cache among writers, because it is voted for by children. It’s the one we’d all love to win! I had a great time at the ceremony. The portfolios of work was such a thoughtful touch – some of the letters inside really moved me.
FCBG: Could you share a little of what you will be talking about at conference this year?
Elen Caldecott: I am still thinking about my talk – however, I’d like to discuss writing for girls vs boys (and trying to reach both with the same book!) and representations of contemporary lives in stories for children. Those are both areas that are really important to me.
FCBG: What are your working on right now?
Elen Caldecott: My next book is very nearly ready – proof copies are going out at the moment. It’s called The Great Ice Cream Heist and it’s about how far you might go to defend a friend.
FCBG: Thanks Elen! It will be great to meet you again at conference.