Miles Kelly authors talk reading, school and Read for My School!

January 20, 2015

We're so thrilled that two of our books, Polar Survival Handbook and Discover the Mega World, have been selected as ‘recommended reads’ by the Booktrust for Read for My School

Discover the Mega World – Discover the World – Miles Kelly                           Polar Survival Handbook – Survival Handbooks – Miles Kelly

To celebrate our joint success, we thought that it would be nice to speak to the amazing writers behind one of the books and decided to interview the authors who wrote our bestselling Discover the Mega World book. They were asked questions about their love of reading and becoming a writer of children’s books, and here’s what they said...

1. How did you get into writing books for children?

Philip Steele I enjoyed writing from primary school onwards. My first ever job was working for a book publisher and I soon decided I would like to be writing the books as well as producing them.
Simon Adams I began in publishing as a copywriter, writing 400 book jacket blues a year. That taught me how to produce copy that grabs the attention. From there I researched a large history book for Dorling Kindersley and then used those skills when I went on to work for them. I eventually went freelance, writing children’s books myself.
Ian Graham By accident! It wasn’t something I planned. I thought I was going to be a scientist. Physics was my favourite subject at school and I went on to study it at university. Then I studied journalism at university and worked for magazines as a writer and editor. Publishers started asking me to write books and, by chance, the first books I was asked to write were children’s books. When they did well, I was asked to write more and more children’s books.
Camilla de la Bedoyere Most writers love studying English and reading stories but, while I love reading, I studied sciences at university. That gave me a big advantage when it came to writing for children – there are lots of people who can write stories, but not so many writers who are confident to write about facts, especially about science!

2. What’s your favourite side to writing books?

Philip Steele Planning the content, getting the language just right for the reader, making it interesting!
Simon Adams The research and planning
Ian Graham I don’t think there’s any part of writing that I don’t like. I enjoy getting the phone call or email asking me to write a book. I enjoy planning the book – deciding what sort of information will be in it and how the information will be divided up from page to page. And I really enjoy writing the book, because it involves taking a heap of facts and weaving them together to make the story that I want to tell. When I research and write a book, I usually learn a few things that I didn’t know before – and that’s fun too. And I like the fact that writing allows me to work at home. I have a (very small!) office at home, so I don’t have far to travel to work every day.
Camilla de la Bedoyere I love thinking about how the words are going to be read because I am also a specialist literacy and reading teacher. I have to think hard about using the right words, repeating tricky words, introducing new words and explaining difficult ideas in simple words. So, I am not just thinking about the information and facts, but also the best way to write it. Writing is a skill like any other – you need to know the basics about grammar, punctuation and spelling before you can go up to the next level. I also enjoy working with the rest of the team – the other writers, editors, artists and designers. Together we have to create a stunning book, where the words and the pictures come together to tempt a reader to dive in!

3. What’s your least favourite part?

Simon Adams Having to check everything once I have written it!
Ian Graham I don’t think there’s any part of writing that I don’t like. Writers would always like more time to write a book, so sometimes the deadlines I have to work to are a bit difficult to meet.
Camilla de la Bedoyere Sometimes I get so caught up in my writing that I forget to do other things. At the end of a long day at my desk I find it difficult to even get out of my chair because my body has forgotten how to move! I try to be very good and go to the gym every day, so I can get some exercise for my body as well as my brain.

4. Do you have a favourite subject?

Philip Steele History, lands and people.
Ian Graham I’ve written books about all sorts of science, technology, engineering and history subjects, but my favourite subject by far is space exploration. It seems amazing to me that puny humans on a tiny planet in an unremarkable corner of space can send spacecraft all over their solar system, build instruments to study unimaginably distant stars and galaxies and even work out how the whole Universe started billions of years ago. There is a lot more for future space scientists to find out and lots more for future space book writers to write about.
Camilla de la Bedoyere I mostly write about animals but I like finding out about anything. I recently wrote a book about pirates which I loved doing; I got to read lots of pirate books and discover stories about wild and wicked pirates from all over the world, from Roman times until today.

5. How many books have you written?

Philip Steele Over 300.
Simon Adams 75 or so.
Ian Graham Amazingly, I’ve written and co-written about 270 books and numerous magazine articles. I’m quite surprised by that myself. I can hardly believe it. Nearly all the books are children’s non-fiction books, but I’ve also written graphic novels and non-fiction books for grown-ups.
Camilla de la Bedoyere Oh, I stopped counting after I got to 200, a few years ago!

6. Do you read a lot? What type of books do you read?

Philip Steele Books are piled up in every corner of the house. I’ll read anything!
Simon Adams I read a lot, particularly modern history, politics, biographies, and some novels and short stories, when I get the time.
Ian Graham I have to read a lot for my work. I read more than 60 history and biography books as part of the research for my latest book for grown-ups. When I’m not working, I read science and history books, and biographies. I rarely read novels, but I recently enjoyed a novel called ‘The Murdstone Trilogy’ by Mal Peet. It’s about a children’s author who switches from writing very worthy but unsuccessful books to a far more successful series of fantasy novels with lots of elves, wizards and spell-casting. I thought I might pick up a few tips from it!
Camilla de la Bedoyere Yes, I read every day and I always have done. I read all sorts: old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, magazines, short books, long books, adventure, classic, action, mystery, detective, romance – everything! Last year I set myself the challenge to read 25 books, which I did – and two of the books had more than 700 pages! Instead of just reading at bedtime I made sure I had a book with me everywhere I went, so I could just read a few pages whenever I had time. I don't think I'll try and beat that record this year though!

7. Did you like reading at school?

Philip Steele I did, and I loved going to my local library. I liked reading to my daughter, too, when she was little.
Ian Graham  I wasn’t a hugely enthusiastic reader at school, but I did use my local public library a lot. When I was at primary school, I wanted to borrow books from the adult part of the library, but I was too young to get an adult library ticket. My Dad wasn’t a great reader, so I persuaded him to apply for a library ticket and then I used it myself. If anyone asked, I said I was using my Dad’s ticket to borrow books that he’d sent me to get for him.
Camilla de la Bedoyere I really liked it when a teacher could explain bits in a story that I didn't understand, and a good English teacher can really help you discover new types of books, and challenge you to read harder things. But, I think English teachers often focus on fiction books. Lots of the children and young people I work with prefer dipping in and out of information books, like Discover the Mega World, and maybe teachers should encourage them to do that more, and school libraries should stock more information books. Non-fiction really builds your general knowledge, increases your vocabulary, gives you lots of fun facts at your fingertips, and on top of all that it boosts all of your reading skills.

Find out more about the Booktrust's Read for My School scheme and have a look at the 'recommended reads' list here. 

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