The Spinning Pen, (Nova) had the pleasure of meeting British Author Josh Lacey at the China Bookworm Literary Festival and asked him to share his thoughts on writing, publishing and his books!
SP: Welcome Josh! Can you tell us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?
I have to admit I don’t really like talking about myself. That’s probably one of the reasons that I write fiction: I like to step out of the photograph, or hold the camera, rather than smiling into the lens. I’d really prefer to follow the example of Henry Green and Lemony Snicket, two of my favourite writers, both of whom would only be photographed from behind.
But I don’t want to be difficult, so I’ll will certainly tell you a bit about who I am. I was born in London, and I’ve lived there for almost my entire life. I’m married. I have two small children. We live in a house full of books.
When I was a kid, I preferred drawing to writing. I loved comics. Particularly Tintin and 2000AD. I would have loved to write Judge Dredd. One day, maybe… I did all kinds of jobs, and eventually became a journalist, and then started writing my first children’s book, A Dog Called Grk.
Sp: You are pretty prolific. You have written over 30 YA/MG books published in both the UK and USA – what were some of the joys and challenges along the way?
I’ve always been a restless writer, by which I mean that I’ve written all sorts of things in different styles and genres. I don’t like sitting still. I like trying new things. So I’ve written plays, films, books, poems, songs, newspaper articles, tweets, shopping lists – you know, a bit of everything.
I write a lot of stuff that I don’t like, that I work on for draft after draft, and then throw away, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes with a great sense of relief. So I suppose the greatest challenge for me is knowing what’s good and what isn’t, what is worth pursuing and what should be discarded.
As for the greatest joy: well, that would be holding my book in my hand. Of course it’s a very temporary joy, which only lasts for a few seconds. Then you put the book aside, and go back to worrying about the next one.
SP: Is there a book or series you are most proud of?
I’m proud of them all. In different ways, of course. But picking one of them would feel wrong, just as it would feel wrong to have a favourite among your own children or your siblings.
Sp: What inspired you to write for children?
The answer to that is very simple: it was the books that I loved reading when I was a child. They had such a huge impact on me: they gave me a safe haven in my childhood, a place into which I could retreat. At the same time, they opened my eyes and my imagination to the world.
When I started writing A Dog Called Grk, several of the books that I’d loved were very much in my mind: The Silver Sword (Ian Serraillier); The Wind on the Moon (Eric Linklater); The Prisoner of Zenda (Anthony Hope); and the Tintin books (Hergé). I loved all those books – and still do – and they had a huge influence on me.
SP: How did you find your voice for writing MG?
At the time, I didn’t think about it at all. I just sat down and started writing A Dog Called Grk, and I told the story in a particular voice, and that voice was my voice. What I think now is that you can’t really “find” your voice; you have a voice whether you like it or not. That’s who you are, and it’s formed by your experiences, the life that you have led. Of course, one of the pleasures of writing fiction is that you can pretend to be someone else: you can steal their voice and use it instead of your own.
SP: What do you think are some differences between writing YA and MG?
I don’t really write YA. If you had a map with different territories for MG and YA, my Tom Trelawney books, The Sultan’s Tigers and The Island of Thieves, would lie somewhere on the border, but I’ve never written anything that I would call pure YA.
I think the reason for this is that YA didn’t exist when I was growing up. When I was 12 or 13, I read books that had been written for adults; the novels of Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc, etc. And so the category now called YA doesn’t really have a place in my imagination.
So I’ve mostly written MG, although my Dragonsitter books would probably be classed as “junior fiction”.
SP: What is your writing tip for young authors?
I only really have one tip for anyone interested in becoming a writer, and that is: you should read as much as you can. A writer is a reader first. Read anything. Read everything. People often say that a vital part of becoming a writer is finding your voice, but I think it’s really more important to find your voice as a reader. You need to decide what you love and hate; which books you press on your friends, and which ones you hurl across the room in disgust after a few pages, and why.
SP: Where can we learn more about you and your books?
I’ve got a website: http://www.joshlacey.com. Or you could simply go to a bookshop or a library, pick up one of my books, and start reading…
SP: Thanks Josh!
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Nova, signing off.