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FRANCESCA SIMON


Did having a small child provide you with lots of writing material? “Josh inspired Do you speak English, Moon? but he didn’t provide much material. He did tune me more into a child’s concerns, such as Horrid Henry doing a dance class or him wanting to be sick and stay at home, but I used myself more than Josh. He is more responsible for me becoming a children’s writer than being responsible for the kind of books I write. If I hadn’t had Josh I wouldn’t have become a children’s writer. I wouldn’t have known I could do it.


Was it difficult to combine writing and motherhood when Joshua was small? “One of the reasons I started phasing out journalism and focusing on children’s books was because the deadlines in journalism are so unforgiving. I had 10 hours a week with a young student who looked after Joshua and that was my writing time. And that actually made me incredibly efficient. I would drop him at nursery and then run home because I knew I only had two hours and I would just work as fast and as hard as I could. In some ways I was more productive because I had no time to waste.”


What’s the hardest part about writing a book?


“Getting started and finishing! Doing that first draft and sticking with something. My newest book The Lost Gods is for older children (9+) and a book like that takes over a year to write so you have to be very focused.”


And your favourite part?


“Having written is the best part. When you know the book is going to work. So I’m happier when I’m doing second and third drafts. And also just seeing your book as a book. I’m looking at The Lost Gods right now and it’s amazing to see something you’ve worked on so hard when the drafts are still lying on your floor but there it is, it’s done.”


When Josh was older did you test your stories out on him?


“I’ve always read my stories out loud either to made MAY / JUNE 2014


You are best known for the Horrid Henry series but you have written many other books. They all seem to have one thing in common – great illustrations. Is that something that’s important to you? “For a picture book – absolutely. I waited two years for Ben Court to do Moon but for older books, it’s not my domain. I tend to leave illustrators alone. I pick someone who is absolutely great and then let them do what they want. If you pick a great illustrator it’s really fun to see what they come up with.”


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Josh or I used to go into his primary school and I’d read aloud to his class. I find it’s essential. If I don’t get the opportunity to read out aloud to children I will read aloud to myself - you just hear if things aren’t working or if a bit is boring.


How does Josh feel about your career now? “He also wants to write so he quite enjoys me being a writer. In a way, fortunately for him, the Horrid Henry books didn’t become popular until just above his age group. So he never had any issues at school because people didn’t know or didn’t care. People are always curious that he’s Horrid Henry which he isn’t. I often make him stand up at book signings and ask people to keep an eye on him to see if they can tell if he’s Horrid Henry or Perfect Peter – he’s very good natured.”


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