Today I’ve a brief interview with Sally Prue and Geraldine McCaughrean as they prepare to set off on their Oxford University Press Author Roadshow, visiting Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol over the next few days. Here’s what we talked about:
FCBG: What’s the funniest / most unusual question you’ve ever been asked by a member of the public when at a book event?
Sally: My favourite is the one asked, completely innocently, by a very small girl: what was it like in the olden days?
Geraldine: Who are you again? I’ve forgotten.
FCBG: If you could programme a fantasy literary festival, which 5 authorsillustrators (alive or dead) would you invite to speak and why?
Sally: A festival with dead writers and illustrators?
Er, no, thanks. Personally, I think there are far too many zombies about as it is.
If I were in charge of inviting people I think I’d like Adele Geras, who’s always entertaining and knows everyone and everything; Alan Bennett, because I’d be interested to see how close the reality is to the presented image; Kazuo Ishiguro, because I admire the way he pays such deep attention to apparently insignificant people; Anne Fine for her wit and originality and because she’s written some of the very finest fiction for children I’ve ever read; Vikram Seth, for his kindness and for being a Renaissance Man (but not in a been-dead-for-four-hundred-years sort of way, fortunately).
Geraldine: Chris Van Allsburg – because only he knows the inner workings of Harris Burdick. (Also every US children’s author wants to put words to his pictures.)
I would reunite the Ahlbergs, because theirs was the perfect partnership.
Frank Cottrell Boyce – because he (and his books) make me laugh so much.
Aphra Benn – a female playwright with an insider view on the golden age of playwrights.
John Keats – just to see the look on his face at the size of the signing queue.
FCBG: For those of us not able to make your events on this tour, can you share a little of what you’ll be talking about?
Sally: I haven’t decided yet, but there’s lots to choose from when it comes to my book Song Hunter. Obviously I had to do a great deal of research before I could begin to write about the band of Neanderthals who are the main characters in the book. I looked at Inuit culture, American backwoods taxidermy, archaeology, deep-frozen mammoths, as well as early human art. Then it might be interesting to talk about the ways in which my childhood shaped my heroine Mica’s story (both my husband and a close friend remarked on how autobiographical the book is), and how Mica responds to her first experiences of art, both in the form of music and sculpture.
Then there’s the connection between art and creativity, and how one might lead to the other. I’m writing a title-specific blog called Song Hunter, and lots of the research and thinking I did for the book is there. All visitors will be very welcome indeed.
Geraldine: I shall be talking about my latest novel, written at the instigation of Theatre Royal Margate as a community project and to promote Margate as a place of culture, promise and artistic splendour. I’m not Tracey Emin. I’m not Turner. But by God I can attempt the impossible as well as anyone.
Devoted to theatre as I am, it’s been a mouthwatering, exciting, unusual and heartbreaking experience.
FCBG: Thank you, Sally and Geraldine, for taking the time to talk to us today. Good luck on tour!
Geraldine McCaughrean was born and education in Enfield, North London, the youngest daughter of a fireman and a teacher. She trained as a teacher, worked for ten years in publishing, and in 1988 became a full-time writer. Since then Geraldine has written over 160 books and plays for both adults and children.
Geraldine McCaughrean is celebrated as one of the greatest living children’s writers, and has won every major children’s book prize including the Carnegie Medal, the Smarties Bronze Award (four times), the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, the Blue Peter Special Book to Keep Forever Award, the Whitbread Children’s Book Award (three times), and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award.
Sally Prue first started making up stories as a teenager, when she realized that designing someone else’s adventures was almost as satisfying as having her own. After leaving school, Sally worked at the nearby paper mill with her family. She now teaches piano, and enjoys walking, painting, and day-dreaming.
Sally Prue’s first book, Cold Tom, won the Branford Boase and the Smarties Silver Medal.