Alice and Louise met five years ago through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and since then have been two thirds of a three-woman trans-Atlantic writing group (the third member lives in Canada). Alice has had over fifty books published – reading scheme texts, picture books, chapter books and a series of new fairytales for older readers.
Books and publishing
Louise: Bookshops are gradually reopening, but for smaller independent stores – many of whom were not set up for online orders – the lockdown will have been devastating. If we lose shops from the high street, does that matter, given that everyone orders online now?
Alice: I would be very sorry to wave goodbye to smaller independent bookshops, as they offer so much more than you can find online. Booksellers know the children’s book market inside out and can advise customers, which benefits lesser-known authors. Bookshops also provide all sorts of other exciting things, like events, author visits to schools, support at festivals and, very often, excellent coffee and cake.
A couple of years ago everyone was declaring ‘a golden age in children’s literature’. Sales of children’s books were on the rise (even if the bestseller lists were dominated by books by celebs). Are we still in a golden age and what impact does that have on this generation of children?
“I feel generally optimistic about the children’s book market because there is so much choice out there. Certainly more than when I was growing up.”
There is excellent children’s writing in every genre and so many ways to access the books. Yes, the same authors tend to dominate the top of the charts, but you don’t have to dig very deep to find a wealth of new talent.
There has been a trend, particularly with ‘young adult’ books but also in titles for younger readers, to create stories about gritty social issues – agents and publishers have been on the hunt for books with a hefty dose of reality, to enlighten and educate young readers. I wonder if, during lockdown, what readers really want is pure, old-fashioned entertainment instead?
Again, I think choice is key. I think it’s great that children’s books are tackling important issues and that is what some people will want right now, but given that I’m currently writing fairytales about unicorns, I’m going to say a big yes to old-fashioned entertainment! I received a lovely letter from an 11-year-old girl a couple of weeks ago which read, “The thing I love most about your books is the adventures people go on. It sometimes makes me want to be one of the characters and go on their brilliant adventure.”
What book have you most enjoyed reading during lockdown?
For pure escapism, I loved reading The Blue Castle, a book for adults but by LM Montgomery. I have always loved her Anne of Green Gables series but in recent years have discovered some of her other titles that weren’t published in the UK until recently.