To celebrate the publication of Mystery and Mayhem, I am pleased to welcome author and editor of the book, Katherine Woodfine, onto the blog to talk about her writing and how Mystery and Mayhem came about.
1) How did Mystery and Mayhem come about?
The idea for Mystery and Mayhem originated with publishers Egmont, and with Robin Stevens who was then working as part of their editorial team. I was delighted when they contacted me to ask if I’d like to be a contributor to the anthology, and write an introduction, celebrating the joy of mystery stories!
There’s so much fantastic middle grade crime fiction out there at the moment - and I love the idea of bringing a group of authors together to form a ‘Crime Club’. The anthology offers you a whole series of very different mystery short stories - there really is something for everyone. And what’s more, you can put your own detective skills to the test and have a go at solving the mysteries for yourself.
2) Do you hope to bring out a second book in the Crime Club series?
Never say never!
I know all the members of the Crime Club have really enjoyed collaborating on this book, so who knows what could happen in the future.
3) You came on the blog at Christmas to discuss your debut in 2015, what have you been up to since?
The sequel to Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, was published at the end of February this year, which was really exciting! It’s been lovely to see readers who enjoyed the first book getting stuck into the second.
Otherwise I’ve been busy doing all kinds of events everywhere from Cornwall to Oxford to Birmingham. A huge highlight was when The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize - I had the chance to celebrate with all the other shortlisted and winning authors at a fantastic party in the gorgeously-decorated Waterstones Piccadilly in London.
Of course I’ve also been busy working on my next book, The Mystery of the Painted Dragon, which comes out in 2017. And on the theme of short stories, I’ve recently been writing a new story for Winter Magic - a Christmas anthology coming out this year from Simon & Schuster, headed up by Abi Elphinstone, which I’m really excited about.
4) With two novels published now, are you finding write the next one easier or harder?
Whatever project I’m working on, I always think it’s more difficult than the last! But I think that’s partly because memories are selective. I think we all tend to look back on previous books through rose-tinted glasses - I usually forget about all the hard parts and just remember the fun bits!
5)Now you’re writing full time, are you getting more or less writing done?
Since I finished working full-time, I’ve had the chance to get involved in all kinds of great bookish projects and events. It’s been a huge amount of fun, but it has meant that I haven’t had quite as much time for writing as I had originally envisaged. I can never resist the chance to get involved in interesting new things, but I’m trying to be stricter with myself from now on so that I make sure I have plenty of time for writing - that’s the whole idea, after all!
6) When starting a new novel, what do you do first? Do you research an idea or go straight into the first draft?
I usually start with research - because I mainly write historical fiction, it helps me to do a lot of reading around a particular topic, or historical period, before I get going. I do read non-fiction, but I’ll also read relevant novels, watch films and look at lots of images to inspire me - and I usually create a Pinterest board to collect useful pictures. Through this process, I’ll often stumble on some interesting and unexpected snippets of information, or little details that spark my imagination.
I also tend to spend quite a lot of time thinking about the characters and getting to know them, and working through the plot before I start writing. It will be ticking over in my mind when I’m walking somewhere, or sitting on a train, or falling asleep at night. I usually have quite a clear idea of the story and how I want it to feel before I sit down to start writing a first draft.
7) Do you have a set editing process, or do you edit as you go along?
I do lots of editing as I go along. I chaired an event recently where one of the authors told me that she never goes back to edit until she has drafted a whole book - I wish I could be as self-disciplined as that! But I love editing, and I find it hard to resist going back and tinkering with favourite scenes. I have a bad habit of doing that when I don’t want to tackle something difficult - like writing a tricky new scene, or untangling a plot problem.
8) What was the last book you read?
Sarra Manning’s new young adult novel, London Belongs to Us. I love Sarra’s writing, and this is a really charming story set over the course of a single night in London. Anyone who loves London will love this - and I also really enjoyed the fact that some of the characters from Sarra’s previous novels make cameo appearances in the book.
I’ve also just finished re-reading Joan G Robinson’s lovely children’s story When Marnie Was There, after seeing the new Studio Ghibli film it inspired.
9) Which authors do you think will be the rising stars of 2016?
Ooh, good question! There are lots of fantastic new authors that I have no doubt will do brilliantly in 2016. M G Leonard’s Beetle Boy has already had tremendous success, which has been great to see - I can’t wait for the sequel. More recently, I also very much enjoyed Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s YA debut The Square Root of Summer.
I have a big stack of new middle grade books which I’m really excited to read, including The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Rose Bell, The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargeave, and Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. I’ve heard great things about all of them. On the YA side, I’m very much looking forward to K M Sutherland’s Our Chemical Hearts.
10) What was the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Don’t get it right, get it written. Just get the words down on paper first, before you start worrying about the quality. It really helps to remind yourself of that when you’re working on a messy first draft. You might be worrying about how terrible it is, but in fact it’s all just part of the process - a step on the road to a finished book.
11) If you could be any detective, fictional or real, who would you like to be?
Nancy Drew! I’d have a great time, zipping around in my convertible car, casually solving a few mysteries whilst remaining stylishly dressed at all times - and of course, being effortlessly brilliant at everything, whether it’s ballroom dancing or skiing down a mountain.
Having said that I also have a soft spot for Miss Marple and have always fancied being a bit like her when I’m an old lady - bicycling around St Mary Mead, doing a bit of knitting, and looking totally harmless, whilst secretly being a brilliant detective.
Thank you, Katherine, for some fabulous answers.
Published by Egmont in May 2016
One challenge: can you solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?
These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children’s crime writers writing today. These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection.
With an introduction by Katherine Woodfine, the anthology also features a brand new short story set in the world of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparow, ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ featuring chorus-girl turned detective Lil!
To find out more about Katherine Woodfine: