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Collated Answers from WW interviews

How, when and why did you first start writing?
Ali McNamaraMy path into writing is a slightly unusual one!
I’ve always been a big fan of the singer, Ronan Keating. One day I had been away on a training course with my work, and I posted a message on his website’s forum about playing Ronan’s music while I’d been staying on my own in a hotel. Another girl responded – Karen, who had also just come back from a training course for her own job and had done exactly the same, and we began a silly late night conversation on the forum about what might happen if Ronan were staying in the same hotel as you. Over time this little chat between ourselves began to develop into a story, to which we kept adding new instalments every night, until we began to realise that more and more people were logging on to the message board simply to find out what happened next in our tale. It sounds incredibly bizarre I know, but its true – the website often used to crash because there were so many people waiting for their nightly fix! Fans from around the world would wait impatiently until I got in from work late at night (because I worked in fitness, I often worked evenings.) demanding the next part of the story. This went on for some months until eventually we’d run out of adventures for Ronan to have, and so we had to bring the story to an end.
We then had so many requests to make the story into a proper book that we decided to do it for charity. I collated, with help of some friends, all the many instalments that were on the forum, edited them into a novel, and then sold email & disc copies of the story to anyone who wanted one.
I then had further requests for more stories, so on my own this time I went on to write two more novel length stories featuring Ronan along the same lines – posting them on the message board in instalments every night – then selling them at the end as a complete novel on disc or email attachment with the proceeds going to charity.
So something that started out as a bit of silly late night banter between two strangers, in total raised over £1000 for Ronan’s cancer charity – The Marie Keating Foundation; brought me together with one of my best friends – Karen, the girl from Glasgow I wrote the first story with; and made me realise that writing was not only something that I really enjoyed doing, but something that other people seemed to enjoy reading too.
I then decided it was time to have a go at writing a ‘proper’ novel, and it was my third attempt at this From Notting Hill with Love...actually which is going to be my first published novel. Oddly it has a Ronan Keating link – in that Ronan sang the theme tune to the movie Notting Hill, a song which features in the story.

Ardella JonesI wrote my first novel, The Little Ducklings Go on Holiday, when I was five and at eight I had my first taste of success with a £1.00 book token from Kensington and Chelsea Libraries for the seminal work, A Day in the Life of a Penny.
Catherine CooperI’ve always enjoyed writing since I was a child. I had my first short story published when I was at university in Just 17. I was beside myself – I’d only sent it off to get a rejection slip because I thought it would look like I was making an effort to get things published when I applied to do my post-grad pre-entry course. It was the first thing I had ever submitted for publication so because it was accepted, and because I was 19 and therefore invincible – I assumed I was majorly talented. I didn’t have another short story published for many years – and even that one was a kind of grown up version of my original teen story. Not a genius after all….

Craig BaxterI found school a bit rubbish and boring but one English/Drama teacher was very inspiring and encouraging. His name was Jon Adams and sadly and horribly he was killed by a suicide bomber in Qatar last year at the theatre in which he was directing a play. I have been thinking a lot about him. At school, I often wrote purely to try to impress and provoke him. He was brilliant at absorbing this and encouraging me to be even more provocative. That remains with me and I think why I have stuck with dramatic writing, the purpose of which is to provoke (the characters provoke each other and the play provokes the audience... to feel, to think, to see something from another perspective).

Dawn FinchI was obsessed with books from a very early age and could read long before I started school. I was always a bit of a loner and books became my escape from the world and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. At school the librarian was very fierce and would not lend books to children if she felt they were “too grown up”. I used to hide books like Bram Stoker’s Dracula under the shelves so that I could snuggle up in the library and read them. I always vowed that if I was ever a librarian I would never be so mean-spirited – and I don’t think I am but you’d have to ask the children!
I constantly wrote my own stories and poems and filled countless notebooks with them. I still have some of those stories and, to be honest, they are not bad!

Elizabeth SpellerAs soon as I could write, really. I was an only child for many years and had a governess, so created imaginary worlds and friends in words. I think writing has always filled holes in my life and helped me understand where it’s all going.
Helen BlackIf you asked my Mum she’d say I’ve always lived in my imagination – something I see in my own daughter, who at this moment is riding a horse called Courage through The Black Wood– but I didn’t write anything down until around 2005 when I began working on Damaged Goods.

James BurgeMy TV work has always involved writing and I guess that, without really knowing it, I had come to relish the rhythm of a well-turned phrase. That is something you can put to use in a book all the time (if only one had the ability) but only rarely in a film.
I started writing books because a friend of mine from BBC Books, Sheila Ableman, became an agent. I asked her if she could get me any work reviewing TV (which I have also done). She said no but why don’t you think about writing a book? It took me about 24 hours to realise that that was something I really wanted to do.
Jill DawsonI can never remember a time when I didn’t write. Diaries as a child, stories in school. When I graduated from University in my early twenties I came to London and began trying to publish stories and poems and one terrible novel. Generally trying to make my living as a writer. Apart from related jobs such as tutoring in Creative Writing and writers’ residencies and fellowships, that’s all I’ve done, ever since.
Judith JohnsonSince childhood, but entered playwrighting competition age 23 and won. Been playwrighting ever since.
Julia CopusI wrote a lot at school – stories, mainly, but some poems too. I was the one who stayed in during my lunch hour at primary school to write twelve pages instead of the usual two. There was nothing terribly inspiring about my childhood: quite the opposite. The house where I grew up was on a dead-end road with a chemical factory at one end and a smaller electroplating factory at the other. On summer nights, when it was necessary to keep the windows open, there was a constant hissing sound above the hum of the traffic. In the daytime, the house was filled with other, more boisterous sounds. Behind each door, at pretty much any time of the day, you could be fairly certain that one of my brothers would be practising an instrument – French horn, ’cello, piano… All three brothers eventually won music scholarships to various prestigious schools or music colleges. The horn player went on to play for some of the top orchestras – the Philharmonia, the Berlin Philharmonic, the L.S.O. … There was a lot of fighting in the house too, a lot of tension: my parents had recently divorced, and my mum was struggling to knit things back together again. What I longed for above all else was quiet, and, I suppose for a room – a space – of my own. My solution was to move out, during the summer of my O’ levels, to the caravan parked in the driveway! It was here (under the quieter hiss of a gas mantle-lantern, and by candlelight) that I began to experience the sense of release and of order that writing can provide. As I say, I had always written poems and stories at school but it was here in the caravan, for the first time, that I truly began to feel that with a notepad and pen I could make my own world; could be whoever – and wherever – I wanted to be. I suppose it was a case of “Have pen, will travel”.
Kate TymI’ve always loved words and language and communicating. I used to write my own funny little poems as a child. I loved English Language at school but I think I thought ‘being a writer’ was something only people with a certain background could do… When I became a published author I used to feel weird telling people that ‘I’m a writer’ then I had a while, after having children, where I had no real work and I considered getting a job in a shoe shop. But when I thought about it I realised that actually ‘I AM a writer’. I love it and it’s what I do.
Laura WatsonI started writing when I was a child, mainly stories and poems. Then in my teens I became heavily involved in my local drama group and studied Performing Arts at college. It was during this time that I gravitated more towards Scriptwriting and this is something I developed further during my BA Hons degree in Writing at Middlesex University.

As for why I started well it’s just something I’ve always done. I’ve always been excited about books, stories, imaginary worlds and people.
Lee HenshawI went to an ordinary primary school in Macclesfield with one teacher you could’ve described as creative, Mr Whale. He’d chalk the word WHACK in reverse on a sawn-off cricket bat, for example, just before he smacked your arse with it to spell the word on your pants. I remember one parents’ evening where he told my mum and dad that my marks for writing were off-the-chart because I did so much of it.

So I started young, and I do it because I like it.
A L BerridgeI’d tried to write a novel before, back in 1999 during one of those long periods of unemployment that are so scary for a freelance. I thought I could do it. I knew a lot about writing and storytelling, I knew the market, I thought it was going to be easy. I did a careful outline, sat at the computer and started.

It was dreadful. I want to blush even thinking about it. It was cynical ‘let’s write a bestselling novel’ at its worst, and the best thing I can say about it was it ground to a merciful halt in the middle of chapter 2. Yes, I had the necessary skills, but I’d forgotten the really important thing. I didn’t have a story I was burning and desperate to tell. I was a writer without anything to say.

Fast forward to 2005. I’d resigned from my high-profile job on a leading soap and retreated right away from anything to do with that kind of politics. I desperately needed a break. What I hadn’t realized was that if the story-telling urge is balked in one direction it always finds another. A story came into my head, just as they used to when I was a child, but now there were no writers to take it and make it real. In frustration I walked up and down the sitting room telling it to myself, and the only difference between what I did now and what I did at seven years old was that I’d finally learned to do it with my mouth closed. But it grew too big, and I needed to write some of it down before I could go on. I did that, went on with telling the story, then wrote a little more. I was 40,000 words in before I realized I was writing a novel.

That nearly frightened me off, and it took an outside event to take me over the hump. I’d had a nasty experience with an online stalker, but the day he was finally convicted gave me closure on my television days and restored a lot of my confidence. When the policewoman who dealt with the case asked me what I was doing with myself now I heard myself say ‘I’m a writer.’

I went back to the computer, opened a fresh document and typed a new opening line. The words were ‘You can trust me’, and after a while I began to believe them. I went on typing more and more, faster and faster, the lines filling page after page, and what I was writing became the first proper draft of ‘Honour and the Sword’.
Mark BoothI started writing stories whilst a pupil at Sandylands Primary school in Morecambe, Lancs. My favourite lessons were those where we were encouraged to write from our imagination - I would become so engrossed that I’d not be able to finish within the lesson and would therefore ask to take the story home so I could work on it some more. Since then I’ve dabbled in different formats but I’ve always come back to the short story. Even the McCrumble novel is essentially a collection of mini-adventures.

Michael RidpathI was working in a bank as a bond trader yelling on telephones and writing nothing longer than my signature on a dealing ticket. I wanted to do something more creative, so I decided to write in my spare time as a kind of hobby. I bought a couple of `how to’ books on writing. The first exercise I tried was to write the first chapter of a novel. I took a recent deal I had been involved in and embellished it.

I loved it. Not so much the chapter itself but rather the process of writing it. So I decided to forget the other exercises and go ahead and write a whole novel. Four years later the result was Free To Trade which reached No 2 in England and was translated in over 30 languages.
Neil NixonI can’t think of any one moment. The way I answer that question now is to say I’ve suffered from it all my life!
Nick GriffithsShort stories about people dying in nuclear wars and generally sheltering under tables, from an early age. Clearly the Cold War seeped into my childish consciousness.
Sarah SalwayMy parents were both writers, so I had a head start in that I never thought that writing a book was something you couldn’t do. However, I think I first started really writing when I fell in love with words as a child. I can remember the exact moment – I saw a sign for a BBQ and worked out for myself that this meant barbecue. It was like several hundred shotguns going off in my head, a real coup de foudre.

Sarah StovellI was probably about six. I gave myself enough time to master letter formation, and then I was off. At the height of my infant school rebellion, I used to write stories while pretending to get on with my maths, and that pretty much set the tone for life. It just became a habit – an addiction – I never gave up. When we were teenagers, everyone else took drugs. I knocked out a couple of angsty novels. I probably wasn’t that cool, thinking about it. Oh, well.
Steve FeaseyI started writing toward the end of 2007 after watching a BBC4 programme about how children’s fiction (aimed specifically at the male reader) had evolved through the years. The books that they discussed early on in the programme were all of the stories I’d fallen in love with as a teenager, and at the end of the show I started to scribble some ideas for a novel about a teenage werewolf. It became a bit of a marathon evening of ideas and note making, and I finally crawled up to bed at about 3am, my head abuzz with possibilities.

Tibor FischerI was always attracted to the idea of writing. When I was thirty I had a bout of unemployment and I realised that if I didn’t use my free time to finally produce a novel, I probably never would. So I did.
Tracy BuchananI’ve always adored writing and enjoyed doing it in many forms from when I was a child. But I started writing in earnest after struggling with infertility a few years ago. I needed something to distract my mind from the sadness in my life. It was a real lifesaver.