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Interview with Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson has been a writer ever since she was 17, when she went to work on the teenage magazine, Jackie. She has written books for adults but for the last 20 years most of her writing has been for young people. She has a sensitive understanding of modern children, the way they live and the problems they face, a delightful sense of fantasy and a good sense of humour. Her books are great fun and so many of you wanted to interview her that we were quite overwhelmed! In the end these questions came from many sources, especially The Dawnay School in Great Bookham, Surrey, and Ruth Bircham (15) Herts.

How do you get good opening paragraphs? Do you write them first or come back to them after you’ve written the story? How often do you change what you have written? Where do you write your stories and do you use a computer or do you write by hand? How much do you write each day?

I try to get straight into the story without wasting too much time. I write my stories by hand in special fat notebooks - then I type them out on a little old-fashioned typewriter (£5 at a Car Boot Sale). I can’t use a computer! I change little bits here and there when I type the story out. I write around 1000 words each day when I’m at home. If I’m going out all day to talk in schools or libraries then I scribble 500 words on the journey.

My English teacher is a great influence on me. Who has influenced you and how has (s)he influenced your writing?

I don’t really think anyone influenced me.

As an adult, how do you manage to describe and explore the feelings of young people so accurately? Do you have vivid memories of childhood/teenage feelings?  How have you managed to preserve the intensity of these emotions?

I don’t really think back to the way I felt when I was young. I try to imagine what it’s like to be young now.

Did you write as a child/young adult? Did you always know that you wanted to go into a writing career? Do any of your books hold ideas that you wrote about as a young adult/child? 

I wrote all the time when I was a child - in hundreds of shiny red or blue Woolworths exercise books. I always had a long story on the go - and I made up many complicated imaginary games too. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six. The only story to survive my Mum’s over-enthusiastic Spring cleaning is one called ‘The Maggots’ about a large family with pots of problems. I wrote it when I was nine. It’s like an embryo version of my novels.

Do you consider yourself as an author writing for girls or boys, or are your novels aimed at both?

I hope boys like my stories - even though they’re often about girls. I want all children to enjoy my books!

Some of your stories have elements of sadness, but you always manage to include humour. Are you a naturally optimistic person, do you like to look to the best parts of a situation? How important is it to get the balance right between sadness and humour in your novels?

I think humour is a good way of dealing with sad or worrying things. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly optimistic - but I always try hard to give my stories a happy ending. I don’t think about balancing the sadness and humour as I write - it just seems to sort itself out as I write the character’s story.

Finally, do you have any Tips from the Top for young writers? 

I would just enjoy writing - and maybe keep a diary to get into an automatic daily writing habit.

Thank you, Jacqueline Wilson!

Read more interviews of leading authors by children.

YoungWriter was a magazine published from 1995 to 2003 by Kate Jones.
We here at Myst Ltd had the pleasure of producing the magazine for Kate.
Sadly, Kate passed away in 2010.