It's UKYA Extravaganza TOMORROW! How excited are you all? As the last author spotlight on the tour, I want to just say that I hope everyone has a great day. Here is my interview with the brilliant Leila Rasheed.
Hi Leila! Welcome to To Another World. Tell us a bit about yourself and your books?
Thanks for having me! OK, so my life story to date goes: be born, move to Libya, live there for 10 years, go to boarding school, read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, move back to England, go to day school, write a lot, read all the Chalet School books, go to university, drop out of university, get back into university, move to London, do an MA in children’ literature, work for a children’s literacy charity, write more, realise that I write children’s books, meet a Dane, move to Brussels, work for Waterstone’s, move back and forth between Brussels, Italy and England with dizzying rapidity (think pinball with passport), do an MA in Writing, get an agent, lose an agent, get Bathsheba books (comedy for 9 – 12 years old) published, get new agent (Julia Churchill- v good), get married to the Dane, get pregnant, have baby, write 8 publisher-led books in 2 years plus a book of my own, send out new novel, drink coffee, wait…
I read the Bathsheba series quite a few years ago, and I adored them – is her character based on anyone in particular?
Thank you! I got the idea after reading a magazine article about Madonna’s daughter, and thinking how weird it would be to be the child of someone who would always be a million times more famous than you. It must be like starting life on the back foot, while at the same time everyone expects you to appreciate your situation. At about the same time I was getting a lot of rejections for a novel, and feeling really depressed about it, losing confidence – I wondered what it would be like to be the kind of person who was made of rubber- totally resilient and no matter how much she got knocked down was totally impervious to it – the kind of person who bounces into a room full of confidence, shouting, ‘Hello world!! It’s me!! Aren’t you lucky to see me??’. Thus was Bathsheba born.
Obviously Bathsheba has quite an odd perspective on life – how did you decide on what would happen to her throughout the trilogy?
Well, I knew from the start there had to be some deep insecurity, vulnerability, under her bumptiousness. So it was about wondering how that could be addressed, and at the same time, teaching her a bit of a lesson, kindly though. In a way, I think she’s a scapegoat for the reader. She’s a bit like Amelia Jane, if you’ve ever read those Blyton books! Amelia Jane is really, really naughty and the reader gets to feel very smug and happy that they’re not that naughty. I suppose, thinking about it, a lot of British comedy is like that. It’s all about being glad you’re not the miserable anti-hero. But basically Bathsheba is a good person underneath, and I wanted her to get what she dreams of at the end of Book 3.
More recently, your series At Somerton has been published. It looks very different to the Bathsheba books – was the change difficult?
At Somerton is a publisher led series, so everything was different about it, really. It was a challenge to work in that way, to try and make a publisher’s ideas come to life. It was great fun writing for an older age range. I did enjoy it, especially the research and having lots of space to write description and really try to create a sense of time and place. It’s also fun to write for an older audience who have an understanding closer to your own.
Moving on, how do you write? Any habits, particular snacks or rooms?
I often write outside the house, in a café. That’s mainly because my flat is small and cramped and not much fun to sit about in. Other than that, not really. I try to start off in longhand and a notebook before moving to the computer, because I think writing in longhand makes you think harder about what you write.
As a child, were you into reading and writing? Did you have any favourites?
Yes, I was a passionate, obsessive reader. Far too many favourites to count, but here goes!
· The White Deer by James Thurber
· The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston
· The Narnia books
· The Hobbit
· Alan Garner’s books
· Joan Aiken’s short stories
I started writing when I was thirteen and wrote stories for my friends to read. Looking back I think I started writing because I was very shy. I couldn’t talk to people but I could write to them. Nothing has changed.
Quick Fire Questions
Cat. Not very original but what is better than a cat? Rhetorical question.
Nite Flights by David Bowie. Or Heroes by David Bowie.. Or Always Crashing in the Same Car by David Bowie. Or anything by David Bowie at all.
You’re trapped on an island and can have one novel, one album and one person. What are they?
That is so difficult! The Lord of the Rings, I think. It’d do me no good at all as far as survival tips goes (does not contain recipe for lembas), though I guess I could light a fire with it since it’s pretty thick. And if I were trapped for a long time it’d last me as reading material. Also it’s my favourite book. One album – again, so difficult! Maybe Music for the Jilted Generation to put me in the kind of mood to tackle wild beasts and cannibals. One person – this is impossible since I have both a lovely husband and a lovely son. So maybe I’ll pick someone like Thor Heyerdahl who might actually come in useful building boats and such. (I am assuming I can re-animate dead people for the sake of this thought experiment…)
This Or That
Cake or Cookies? Cake ideally carrot.
Lemonade or Coke? Coke. With ice and lemon.
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook, I haven’t the energy for Twitter.
Thank you for the interview, Leila!