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Sue Mongredien Interview

Posted by Michelle on March 4, 2008

Sue is a popular children’s author, with many books to her name.. the full list can be seen here. She also writes some of the Rainbow Magic books, under the name of daisy Meadows.

Q. You’ve been involved in writing an amazing number of children’s books, so how did it all start?

A. I have always loved writing, ever since I was a child. I always made little books and magazines and tried to sell them to my younger sisters, so I guess I was an early starter in that respect! My first proper job after leaving college was in publishing – I worked at Random House as an editorial assistant for the children’s books department. I gradually took a greater role in editing the books, which in turn helped very much when I came to write one myself. More to the point, I learned invaluable lessons about the editor-writer relationship, the way the publishing process works and who all the best agents were. I wrote a teenage novel (Rough Diamonds – now out of print), signed up to an agent and off I went!

Q. Your latest series is about Oliver, a wizard.. can you tell us a little more about it?

A. The Oliver Moon series is about a young wizard, his parents and baby sister, and various witches, wizards and eccentric teachers at Magic School. Having magical characters gives you plenty of scope for action and adventure – so far, Oliver’s faced a spell-off with the boastful new boy in school, tackled a load of vampires at the haunted house museum, met a werewolf on holiday and taken part in the Broomstick Olympics, to name just a few of his experiences…

Q. Do you enjoy writing a series of books about the same character(s), rather than a singular book?

A. I’ve written a lot of series so far, with some new ones coming soon – but I’m just about to start my first stand-alone children’s novel in years, and am really looking forward to it. It’s great to develop a set of characters over a series of books, and throw them into all sorts of adventures – you get to know them very well after a while – but a one-off story has popped into my head recently which I’m really keen to write. It’s quite different to the more humorous stories I’ve written before – more creepy, tense and atmospheric, I’m hoping.

Q. Which has been your favourite to write?

A. I’ve got a new series coming out in August with Orchard Books about a naughty prince, Prince Jake, and his rumbustious royal family. I’ve had great fun with these stories and loved thinking up all Prince Jake’s wicked deeds. The publisher has found a great artist who’s really captured Jake’s cheekiness too…I can’t wait to see the books in print now!

Q. What is the next series that you have planned?

A. I’m currently working on a new series for Usborne which will be out next spring. It’s a six-book series about a girl who makes friends with a group of mermaids and has to help them in a series of adventures. I’m about halfway through this series, so that’ll keep me busy for a while…

Q. The Sleepover Club series became a TV series.. what was it like seeing it on the screen?

A. I must confess, I haven’t actually seen any of the TV series! My eldest daughter has discovered my Sleepover Club books though and is now working her way through the rest of the series, so I might see if I can find a video for her to watch.

A story of mine called Explorer Trauma is going to be on Jackanory Junior on CBeebies in a few weeks’ time though… and I am VERY excited about that!

Q. Do you find having young children yourself helps your writing? Do they help you make up stories and people?

A. Yes, to both – definitely. I have three children aged 7, 5 and 3, and they give me all sorts of ideas – the things they say, their likes/dislikes, things that make them laugh/afraid… Sometimes they even help with the titles of stories if I’m stuck which is very handy.

I always roadtest my stories on my children, too – partly because reading anything aloud is a great test of its quality: you can hear if the dialogue sounds realistic, you get a better feel for the pace etc…and if my ‘panel’ start wriggling and fidgeting, I know I need to prune down a boring paragraph and get on with the action…

Q. Do your children enjoy seeing and reading books that their mum has written? Do they enjoy reading?

A. All three of my children love books and I’m always very proud when they pick up one of mine out of choice (rather than have me force it up on them!) They also take great pleasure in handing out loads of my books whenever their friends come round… which is very nice, although my shelves look rather depleted these days.

My eldest loves writing her own stories now and often gives me tips – “Mum, I was thinking, you could start off a mystery story like this…”

Q. How about yourself? As a busy mum and writer, do you get time to read for fun? What have you been reading lately?

A. I make time to read for fun – it is such a key part of my life, I couldn’t cope without books. At the end of a busy day, a bit of escapism is exactly what I need.

I’ve just read When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson, which I thought was brilliant. Beautifully elegant writing, very funny, great characters and plot. I am still thinking about the characters a week or so after finishing, which is always a sign of a good book for me.
I’m currently re-reading Great Expectations – I want to brush up on it before I read Mr Pip, so that I get all the crucial references!

Q. You’ve also written some books for adults.. how does that compare, and which do you prefer?

A. Ooh, you can’t ask which I prefer – it’s like asking which of my children I love most!

I write women’s fiction under the pseudonym Lucy Diamond, and started my first novel Any Way You Want Me soon after my second child was born. I have quite a close age-gap between my first two children – twenty months, and I found that first year of looking after a baby and toddler and juggling their different needs really exhausting, definitely the toughest year of my life. I joined an evening class and started writing about my feelings in the guise of a narrator – how I adored my children but felt that my own identity had evaporated, that there was nothing left of me except this knackered, hapless mum. I found it so liberating being able to write about adult feelings, rather than fairies, wizards, schoolgirls etc that the novel just fell out of me and all but wrote itself. It’s also a joy having the space to develop a set of characters and plot over 100,000 words rather than being restricted to a tighter length for children’s books.

But then again, nothing – nothing! – compares to the satisfaction gained from reading a new story I’ve written to my own children and them saying, “Oh, I really liked that, Mum!”

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