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Interview with Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman is a Londoner. As a child she wanted to be an English teacher or a Bridge Officer on the Starship Enterprise. In the end she had a variety of different jobs, travelling within Europe and the United States, before becoming a writer. Her first novel was in 1991 and since then she has written many books and won many awards. Hacker and Thief have both won the Young Telegraph’s Fully Booked Award—she is the only author to have won it twice. In her spare time she is learning to play the guitar, piano and saxophone. Her home is full of stuffed toys!

Pupils from Broadwater School, Tooting interviewed Malorie Blackman.

How do you plan a story? Do you know the end before you start?

If it’s a novel, I plan a chapter breakdown so that I know what will happen at each stage of the book. This gives me a framework for my story, therefore when I start a novel I know where it’s going! That’s not to say that I always stick to the chapter breakdowns. Sometimes, mid-way through the book, the characters may take me in another direction, but by then I trust them to know where they’re going.

Do you write at a set time? How long do you take to write a book? Do you write with a pencil or a biro or on a computer? Why?

I write between 10 am and 4.40 pm. Novels usually take me between 5–8 months, although now I have a 3-year old they’ve been taking longer. I write straight on to my computer, but I always edit and rework my stories on paper. I can’t imagine writing the first draft on anything but a computer. I like to chop and change and play about with sentences, paragraphs, pages and sometimes whole chapters. On a computer it’s a doddle. I’d go crazy if I had to use a typewriter and type each page again every time I changed even a word.

What do you prefer writing: science fiction or realistic stories? Do you approach them differently? How do you do research for science fiction?

I like to write whatever takes my fancy that day, week or month. As I love both science fiction and realistic stories I write both, although I have to say that the best science fiction is very realistic and portrays real people with real problems and recognisable emotions. It’s just the setting which is out of the ordinary. I use the Internet for a lot of my research—it’s great! The biggest library in the world!

Do you believe in ghosts? (like the one in ‘Grandma Gertie’s Handbag’)

I believe in life after death and I believe that under the right (or wrong) circumstances we leave something of ourselves behind—so yes, I guess I do. I’ve never seen one though.

How are you so good at pretending you’re another person speaking? Your expressions are brilliant! Have you any tips to help us improve our writing of good dialogue?

Thanks for the compliment! I get a lot of dialogue from being incredibly nosy. I listen to other people’s conversations whenever I get the chance. And I always have a notebook in my handbag so that I can jot down all the good expressions and phrases that I hear other people use. And I play conversations in my head, like having an internal radio. That way, it’s like two or more people talking in my head. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like too much of a fruitcake!

How do you plan how much plot to put in a story, how much description, how much dialogue?

It just happens really. I like to hear people talk so I like lots of dialogue in my books, but it entirely depends on the story.

How does it feel to be an author? Would you recommend it as a life? Why did you start writing? Are you planning a new book now? Do you think you will ever stop writing?

I feel very lucky to be a writer. I’m doing a job I love and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I’d recommend it as a life, but only after living a life first. It’s a good job to come to after you’ve done other things and other jobs—then you have something to write about. I am indeed planning a new book now, a story set in an alternative world—and not a very nice one either I’ll never stop writing. I hope when I drop dead I’m found at my computer, or at least with a pen in my hand!

Have you got any tips for a young writer?

Thank-you very much Malorie Blackman!

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.