Posts Tagged ‘teen’

Acclaimed author Anne Fine talks about writing, editing and getting published. The Carnegie Medal winner shares her views on the publishing market, book competitions and movie adaptations.

Dear Anne, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks”! If you could describe yourself – and your books – with three adjectives…
Me: Impatient, curious, restless
My books: Cruel, funny, unsettling

What are you working on right now?
A comedy for children of 8-11 – the third in my Mountfield Family Series (following on from The More the Merrier, and Eating Things on Sticks).

How did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?
At Northampton High School for Girls, in the upper thirds, I and my best friend Gillian wrote a book called Agatha the Witch. We took turns to write chapters in a French Vocabulary book, and the English teacher allowed us to read each episode out on Monday mornings at the beginning of our lesson. Alas, the book has been lost, and I can remember nothing of the story.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
I didn’t even know about agents. I sent my first book off to two publishers. The first sent it back saying they did not publish children’s books (clearly, I’d never heard of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, either). The second sent a really positive letter, regretting that my book wasn’t quite right for their list. I thought she was just being polite, and threw the typescript under my bed. Two years later I fished it out to submit it for the Guardian/Puffin Kestrel Award, and was runner up after Jan Mark. Both our careers started with that prize because, at the prize ceremony, the agent Gina Pollinger asked if she could represent me. She sold the book to Methuen Children’s Books a few months later. So I am a huge fan of competitions.

Your views on the evolution of the publishing market: was it easier – or, on the contrary, more difficult – to get published in the 80’s and 90’s? What do you think of ebooks? Are paperbacks meant to die?
I truly have no idea about the first book – though I do believe that a really, really first rate first book will still finally find a publisher. But I do guess that since established novelists are finding it harder and harder to get almost automatic publication of further works, it must be more difficult than ever to find a first publisher. It’s obvious that ebooks are storming away (tellingly, this year I took a flight from Manchester to Los Angeles, on which most readers had printed books; then a further flight up to Seattle on which the majority of readers were reading from screens). I don’t for a moment think paperbacks will die. But I do suspect they will turn much more into Print on Demand, because of the total collapse of the range in bookshops.

Authors often complain about editors “butchering” their manuscripts. What about you? Do you have complaints or did you get used to it?
When I was much younger, I had a copy editor for my third book (The Stone Menagerie) whose plan was clearly to rewrite my book in the way she herself would have written it. Luckily the commissioning editor took my side. I take enormous care to edit myself as well as I can before I submit anything, and so my in-house editors tend to go very easy, and I appreciate their input as it usually airbrushes out mistakes and infelicities and therefore improves the book. Currently I am delighted with the skills of the editors in all of the publishing houses I use (that, I admit, is unusual; but it is true. I don’t know if I’m currently just lucky). I do hear horror stories. On the other hand, I read so many books that seem to me to cry out for stricter editing that I might be on the publisher’s side more often than many of my author friends might imagine….

Do you pay attention to bad reviews? How do you handle criticism?
If it’s dishonest (misquoting, axe-grinding etc), stupid (e.g. “I did not like this book because I did not like anyone in it”) or wrong (“Children don’t want to read about this sort of thing”) then I have learned to ignore it. If it puts a finger on a real weakness in your book that you yourself were trying to pretend wasn’t there, it really hurts. Since they are so much longer and can therefore be more thoughtful, I tend to find the foreign reviews – particularly of my adult novels – well worth reading and often useful.

Did you improve your writing skills (attending classes or reading special books)?
No. But I did have superb English teachers at school. And I do read a lot of excellent novels.

What is a typical working day for Anne Fine?
Wake up. Make tea. Back to bed. Press ahead (pencil and rubber). Drain teapot. Get up. Breakfast. Walk dog. Type up earlier scribblings on computer. Correct, correct, correct. Quick lunch. Walk dog. Do office work. Read in bath. Supper. Walk dog. Go to bed.
A typical ‘event’ day is just alarm clocks, trains, rain, clockwatching, heavy bag carrying, more trains. (Grim.)

Could you describe “the making of a novel”?
Not really. Before I start, I have a sort of vision of what the book will be like. The instant I begin, the work seems to depart entirely from my mental template. I struggle through. Surprisingly, at the end, I can often look back and the book mirrors my original intention far more than I would have thought possible.

Do you have writing secrets or tips for aspiring authors?
Guess the maximum length of the book. Keep a chart of thousands of words written (like a child’s chart of days to the end of term). It takes so long to finish a book that it is encouraging to cross the stages to the end off one by one. It reminds you the task is finite.

You are a fellow of the “Royal Society of Literature”. What was your reaction? Did you use Byron’s pen or Dickens’ quill to inscribe your name on the official roll?
I took it as a tremendous compliment. I used Byron’s pen.

Do you have a favorite book among your own works?
Of the adult novels I love Raking the Ashes best. And for the books for younger  people, it’s a toss up between How To Write Really Badly and Up on Cloud Nine (both for personal, rather than literary reasons).

The famous movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on your satirical novel ‘Madame Doubtfire”. Were you involved in the making of the movie?
Not at all. I don’t really like working with other people much, so I left the whole thing to the film makers. All I asked was that they would not make the children bratty, and they did indulge me in that.

Are you satisfied with the result?
If a book has paid off your mortgage, it’s rude to criticize – especially if you yourself chose to have nothing to do with it. Let’s just say it’s not the film I would have made. The tone and the circumstances of the book are very different. Essentially, the filmmakers paid for the ‘ex-husband dressing up as his own children’s nanny’ idea – and a few of my jokes (And if I’d made the film, probably no one would ever have heard of it).

Finally, my favorite off-topic question: you’ve found £100, how will you use that money?
Half to Sight Savers (I dread, absolutely dread, perhaps one day not being able to read). And half going out for dinner.

What about your plans?
As usual, I plan to take a few weeks off, go on holiday with Richard, lounge on a beach, etc etc. As usual, I have started another comedy for young children.

“My Favorite…”

Author: Tolstoy
Book: Middlemarch
Movie & TV Show: McCabe and Mrs Miller. Have I Got News for You
Food: Avocados
City: Melbourne
Music: Bach
Hobby: Reading
Place to write: Bed
Motto: Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
Idol: Andrew Carnegie

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea (except mid morning, when coffee).
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Disco & Restaurant
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I say megapolis because I already live in a sleepy little town and really, really fancy a change.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Hate to move.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Well, I’m bossy. So Leader, I suppose (though I’d hate to have to do it).
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Strangely, serious. But I’ll fall in love with anyone who can make me laugh.

Thank you, Anne!
Anne Fine’s official website:


Lauren MyracleWhat about some girl talk? Lauren Myracle answers my questions about writing, Internet Messaging, cookies and more! And, whether you’re a teen or tween, you can be sure you’ll find a Lauren Myracle’s book you’ll love.
Warning: the TTYL series are advised for older readers (not tweens), as the themes and language are quite explicit.

Hi Lauren, I’m glad to see you on Veronika Asks! Could you  say a few words about yourself to our readers?
Okey-doke. Well, I’m a writer. I write books for tweens and teens and I LOVE IT. The common thread in my books is that they’re all about friendship, in one way or another, because that’s something I’m endlessly fascinated by. My “Internet Series” books are for teens, while my “Winnie” books (ELEVEN and TWELVE) are for the tween set. . .but I find that there’s a lot of overlap between the readerships.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words…
Hmm. I think I’ll go with…whimsical, sassy (sassy! sassy is so…sassy!), and kind.

You’re Taurus, aren’t you? Those Bulls, they are known for being warmhearted, determined but also very self-indulgent. Are you a typical Bull, Lauren?
Um, that would be a yes, I suppose. Although I need to work on being more self-indulgent. I’m actually quite monkish at times, but then at other times, I indulge, indulge, indulge!

So, now let’s talk a bit about TTYL, TTFN and L8r, g8r. Tell us more about this series.
Oh, they’re about three dear friends–Zoe, Maddie, and Angela–and their ups and downs as they navigate the crazy terrain of high school. And they’re all told in Instant Messages.

Why did you write this series only with IM messages? Isn’t it too difficult?
Difficult? Heck yeah! But awfully fun, too. And for readers, it’s like getting to eavesdrop of the girls’ inner lives, which I think is appealing. Anyway, I’m always up for a challenge!

And then comes Rhymes with Witches. What is it about?
Popularity gone bad 😉

I also read you write a series with two novels already out, Eleven and Twelve. Tell us more! (will there be a Thirteen?)
I love those books! Thanks for asking about them. I think of them as the ttyl books’ little sister. All the same drama–friends, boys, etc.–but just a little…cleaner. And yes! THIRTEEN is in the works!

How did you start writing?
Well, I picked up a pen…just kidding! Um, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, so at some point in my very early twenties, I said to myself basically, “Put up or shut up.” Meaning, do it or don’t–but if you don’t, then you can’t go whining about it!

How do you write (how, where, when)?
WELL. First you should know that I’ve got three kids, which is both delightful and endlessly complicating. So first I get up, get them up, get the boys off to school or camp or whatever, and, three days a week, drop my daughter off at a wonderful caregiver’s house. And then I go STRAIGHT to Starbucks and get busy writing. I write there because 1) the coffee rocks (and just hush, you anti-Starbuckers!); 2) there are no laundry-machine-ish distractions; and 3) it’s just the most efficient way of getting in as much writing time as I can before going back to get my daughter at noon. Then, while my daughter sleeps, I tend to the busywork deets of being a writer, such as answering fan mail and dealing with other correspondence. Although sometimes I fall asleep. I do love taking naps!

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Oh, heavens. Anything by Flannery O’Connor. And if I’d written To Kill a Mockingbird? I’d be hugging myself constantly and telling myself how brilliant I am!

Which book(s) would you advise for a perfect girly beach read?
Fireworks! It’s an awesome collection of summer love stories. Verrrrrrry fun!

Off-subject, but still: why this passion for cookies?
Because they’re so yummy, of course! MUST BE HOMEMADE. Just FYI.

What do you think about eBooks?
Never read one.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on How to be Bad, a road trip novel, with two other fabulous YA novelists, E. Lockhart and Sarah Mlynowski. It is soooo much fun. (Oh, and that’s a way to avoid the loneliness pitfall of writing, too. Co-write a book with a buddy! Or two!) I’m also finishing up Thirteen, which is the sequel to Eleven and Twelve, and I’ve just started a prequel to a book of mine called Rhymes with Witches. Eee-gads!

Now, the Nothing-to-do-with-books question: you’ve found $100 in your pocket (lucky you!), how will you use that money?
Hmm. Something frivolous and fun. I’d probably go to this great store in Old Town called White Balcony and buy silly random things like stone eggs and “Bad Girls” lip balm and gorgeous whimsical journals! (Either that or–um, yeah–give it all to charity…)

Would you like to add something, Lauren?
Nah, I’m good. But thanks.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? book
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? beach
Country or City ? country. no, city! I don’t know! Both!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? both
Serious or Funny ? both
Traveler or not ? traveler
Sporty or not ? sadly not
The Leader or not ? Um…I can be bossy, if that’s what you mean! But it’s always good-hearted…


TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
Movie : Harold and Maude
Book : To Kill a Mockingbird
City : Atlanta
Food : chocolate chip cookie
Music : almost ALL
Favourite place to write: Starbucks
Quote or motto : This is your one life. Use it wisely.

Thank you, Lauren!
You can learn more about Lauren and her novels on her website: