I’m pleased to welcome a writing legend onto the blog. When it comes to young children’s fiction, I don’t think anyone can beat Vivian French for productivity. You may vividly remember her Tiara Club series, which I know my own children loved. Now Vivian has a brand new series out entitled Stargirl Academy and I’m over the moon that she has agreed to talk about it with us today.
1) You have your brand new children’s series, Stargirl Academy coming out this July, how will you celebrate on publication day?
I’ll be out on tour with the wonderful Walker Books team, so I’m guessing we’ll be sharing the day with groups of children. Stars all round!
2) Do you plan to visit any schools or bookshops when they are published?
Yes indeed! And I’ll be whizzing about the week before publication day as well.
3) Can you tell my readers a little bit about your new series and how it differs from your very popular Tiara club series?
The Stargirl Academy books are longer than the Tiara Club stories, and I think the girls are just a little older. They’re actually training to be modern day Fairy Godmothers, but Fairy Mary McBee, who runs the Academy, thinks that sounds old fashioned, so she’s decided to call them Stargirls instead. Friendships are very important, just like in the Tiara Club books, but instead of having two dreadfully spoilt and silly girls like Diamonde and Gruella as “baddies” I’ve created Melody and Jackson. They’re not exactly “baddies” - they’re more complicated than that. They think they’re SO cool - but they aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are. I hope that readers will get very cross with them ... but will sometimes like them too.
4) I understand that unlike some other popular children’s series you wrote all of the Tiara Club books yourself. Do some people find that hard to believe?
I think I’ve written forty six Tiara Club books - and yes, sometimes people do ask who helped me. But they were only 3,500 words long, so it wasn’t too difficult ... I once wrote one on a plane journey. (A very LONG plane journey!)
5) You have six titles coming out on one day. How long did it take you to write all six?
Longer than six Tiara Club titles; each Stargirl Academy book is about 10,000 words. I think it took me about nine months, but I was writing other things at the same time.
6) Which one was your favourite book to write?
Ooooh - that’s a tricky one! I loved writing Lily, because that was the first book and I was setting everything up - but I had fun with the others as well. Ummm - maybe Ava is my favourite, because it features my local café, and their coffee cake!
7) Did you work on one book at a time or did you mix them up?
No - I worked on one at a time. I had to make notes to remind me who did what in the earlier books - luckily I have a fantastic editor who has a MUCH better memory than I do!
8) Do you find that the writing gets easier or harder with each book you publish? Oh, harder - no doubt about it. I have years and years and YEARS of editorial comments swilling around in my head (“show! don’t tell! That’s not clear enough! Stick to high drama and brief text!”) and I tend to self-edit more and more .. it drives my poor editor bonkers. I hand over my final draft with pages and pages of suggested corrections!
9) What usually comes first - the character, the plot or the idea when starting a new project?
Usually some kind of scenario starts unrolling in my head ... maybe a first sentence pops up from somewhere (who knows where?) and I have to follow it to see where it’s going. With Stargirl Academy I was dying to write about Fairy Godmothers - I’ve always wondered where they come from.
10) Do you plot out each book before you write it or do you let the story unfold as you go along?
With these books I have a pretty clear idea about the plot before I start. Because they’re not all that long I have to make sure all the plot points happen in the right order. I haven’t got room to expand too much.
11) Do you have a daily word count that you aim for when writing your first draft?
Yes; I like to write a minimum of 500 words a day - preferably 750. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but sometimes just one sentence takes me AGES! Sometimes I have to move a character from place A to place B to make the plot work, and there has to be a really good reason for the move - and my mind goes into total wipe-out mode.
12) Do you edit your first draft as you write it or wait until you have finished it?
I edit as I go along - up to a point. If I have a day of not writing it’s really helpful to go back and edit what I’ve already written; it gets me back into the correct voice and style.
13) What’s the weirdest question a child has ever asked you?
“Do you make your own curtains?” I’m still staggering from that one!!!!!
14) Did you attend any writing courses before you were published?
No. I was an actor and a story teller - I think that taught me a lot. Your audience gets very twitchy and restive if you don’t tell a story well!
15) Is there any non-fiction writing book that you would recommend?
My lovely friend Nicola Morgan has written a brilliant book called “Write to be Published.” It’s very good indeed.
16) Do you have any advice for aspiring and unpublished authors?
Read a lot, talk a lot, listen a lot - it’s all about words. And always write about feelings ... and write because you’ve got a story you really want to share - not because you want to be published.
The Stargirl Academy Books go on sale tomorrow and are published by Walker Books.
To find out more about Vivian French: