A new author feature on the blog for you, where authors get to talk about the books that influenced them during their childhood. First to take part in the new feature is best selling children’s author, Holly Webb, author of many wonderful series such as Animal Magic and My Naughty Little Puppy.
When I do school visits, one question I’m quite often asked is whether I wanted to be an author as a child. Children seem surprised when I say no – I enjoyed writing, but I infinitely preferred to read, and I did it a lot. My original career choice was to be a librarian, so I could just sit in a room full of books all day.
I did dally with the idea of being an archaeologist for a while, due to one of my favourite books – an Usborne book on the Egyptians. I later discovered that archaeology was a bit muddy, and changed my mind.
As well as loving books, I was rather animal-obsessed. We had a cat, Rosie, and I spent a lot of time chasing her around so I could attempt to dress her in my dolls’ clothes. Obviously I don’t recommend this. She was remarkably tolerant, but I did usually have scratched hands. Our family also had (over a number of years) a mouse called Truffle, because he was chocolate-coloured, who spent most of life in a box on the Aga recovering from constant colds, twelve gerbils, two hamsters and two dogs. Not everything that happens in my animal stories actually did happen to us, but our animals did seem to lead quite adventure-some lives.
My mother and I created the idea behind Lost in the Snow, the first animal book I wrote, very early on. I think I must only have been about four or five, so it’s quite hard to remember the details, but we had a game which basically consisted of a heart-rending story about a lost kitten – with sound effects supplied by me. I still make a very good mee-ooo, mee-ooo tragic kitten noise…
The Maisie Hitchins books were inspired by some of my favourite childhood reading – the Sherlock Holmes stories. I loved these, partly I think because they were the first books I’d read from a completely different era. (Leaving aside Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome.) The settings were fascinating, if sometimes confusing, and I adored Holmes’s diagnostic technique, the tiny details he was able to weave into the solution of the mystery. I was also terrified (in a good way) by The Hound of the Baskervilles. This is a photo of me aged about ten, on Guide Camp, with a copy of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes that I still have. Sherlock Holmes led on to a life-long love of detective novels, especially Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion books – again the setting, from the 30s to the 60s, was almost as interesting as the adventures.
I’ve so enjoyed writing about Maisie, and trying to give her a flavour of those books I adored. I would love it if any of her readers decided to try the original Sherlock Holmes stories!
Thank you Holly for a brilliant post. Holly has a new series coming out all about Maisie Hitchins, the pluckiest little Victorian detective. The first two books are coming out in May and are published by Stripes Publishing.
To find out more about Holly Webb: