Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Chat with Author Beth Webb

As promised, here is my surprise author interview.  Last year, I came across and read an enthralling story about a girl named Tegen.  I was enchanted by her and wanted to know more and find out if there's another book that continues her beautiful story.  In my search, I found out that there are four more books following Star Dancer, (Fire Dreamer and two more on their road to publication and one which intrigues me, Tegen's World)...and I also found the book's author, Beth Webb, on Facebook.  How cool is that?  I took the chance and asked Beth if she'd spare me some time for a blog interview and she so kindly said yes!  Yay!  I was so excited!  I'd like to thank you, Beth, for taking the time answering these questions despite your busy schedule.

Here's the interview, blog friends, I hope you enjoy it!

When did you find out you wanted to be a writer? 
Beth Webb:  I was about 3. I couldn't read or write, but I loved making 'books' with light bulb packets  (with a ballet dancer on) cut up to open like a book,  and folded pieces of paper inside, scribbled on. I remember being very frustrated that I couldn't make the writing as black as in a proper book.

What was your first job ever? 
Beth Webb:  I think I was a mother's help. I was a disaster. I got shouted at because i didn't know how to use an upright vacuum cleaner. (My mum had a cylinder one). I was 14.

Were you working full time when you began to seriously write and finish a novel?
Beth Webb:  Yes, I was illustrating books for adults with learning diabilites for St George's Hospital Medical School. I was also a full time mum of four. Don't ask me how I did it all - I have no idea. 

What was your first story ever written? 
BW:  Hummm... I can't really remember. When I was a teenager, there weren't many books for young adults, so I wrote my own episodes of 'Tha Man from UNCLE' (with me playing opposite David McCullum (Now 'Ducky' in NCIS), of course! My first published piece was when I was 15, I interviewed my fav rock group and sent it into a pop magasine.

Do you ever get a writer’s block?  If you do, how do you get rid of it and carry on writing?
BW:  Rarely. More like fatigue when I just feel too numb to keep going. For writer's block I go for a long walk, or blow lots of bubbles. One BIG rule with WB is NEVER to think, just chill and daydream. Lots of Mars Ice Cream helps (but makes me fat!). Another thing I do is to go to the book shop of library and get out LOTS of books and read for about a week - not to 'nick' ideas, but to refresh the brain and get back into gear.

How long does it take for you to finish the first draft?  

BW:  If it's 'flowing,' I can do a draft of a 60,000 word book in 6 weeks. If I'm struggling, a couple of years.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far as a writer?

BW:  It's always the book I'm currently working on - so it's got to be Wave Hunter, out in May or June this year. After that it'll be something else. Probably Bk 4 of the Star Dancer seires - Stone Keeper. 

Who are the authors who inspire you? 
BW:  Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula le Guin, Katherine Langrish, Jenny Nimmo, C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien, Neil Gaiman. I could go on for ever.

What made you write for children and not adults?

BW:  I do write for adults, but haven't seriously tried to publish much. I love writing for children and young adults because the stories are faster, more to the point and less self-consciously 'literary'. Basically kids books are more fun both to read and to write. 

Do you write full time now?  If not, do you have a day job? Would you like to tell us about it?

BW:  I write almost full time. I also teach creative writing, mostly at local schools or Kilve Court When I'm not doing that, I'm helping my old dad.

Do you have a special place where you write?  Does it have to be really quiet or do you prefer some music?
BW:  I usually write in my study, where I'm sitting right now. I have a lovely big desk and a gentle AppleMac (my dearest friend, probably). I have to have absolute silence because music has rythyms that might spoil the rythyms of the words I'm trying to write.  I believe that even prose has to be written rythmycally, like poetry.

I've read Star Dancer and fell in love with Tegen and am still scared of Derowen.  I find her story very interesting and unique.  Where do you get your story ideas from?  Do you base your characters to real life people?
BW:  Story ideas have no manners, they pop up everywhere and all the time, crawling out of life's nooks and crannies. I just scrawl them down in a notebook. Some are more persistant than others. Those are the ones that tend to get written.

I also often use ancient myths and legends to give my stories structure. Eg, many of the stories Tegen tells and refers to (eg the one about the boar with the comb between his ears) comes from a wonderful collection of Welsh stories called the Mabinogion.

These sorts of tales are also are the nearest one can get to original Celtic storytelling art, so by referencing them, I hope to add real authentic flavour to my work.

As to the characters, they are rarely real-life people, I can only think of one actual incidence, the others tend to evolve from experiences and people I have known. For example, my sister and I were bullied relentlessly by 'Ma Bennett', an awful teacher at school. From her, I learned how to fear fierce old women. That fear I put into Tegen's experience of Derowen, but 'Derowen' isn't 'Ma Bennett' as such.

What advice would you give to writers aspiring to get published out there? 
BW:  You've got to really, really want to be published. It's a nasty, backbiting, tough world, but also loads of fun and thrilling. A bit like taming and riding a rather bad-tempered dragon, I'd guess. Also, It's important to think about why you want to be published? Is it the cudos, or just because you HAVE to tell stories? There are other ways of telling stories than being mainstream published that are less stressful, and maybe more effective (see my link to my Guardian blog - on 'Not Being Published' on my website

    1. Anything else you’d like to add?

BW:  Can I have a cup of tea now please?
Ooops, sorry, did I really forget to offer you a drink?  My apologies.  Let me get you a cup of tea....

Please visit Beth's website to find out more about her books! .


Theresa Milstein said...

I really like the cover of Fire Dreamer.

When I was young, I was pretty disappointed the YA section of my library. I wound up hopping from children's to adult. It's nice that the market has grown so much.

Interesting interview. I like the writing advice section especially.

J.L. Campbell said...

One thing's for sure. Writers find time to write no matter how busy life gets. Writing and teaching about writing sounds like heaven. Hope you make lots of sales!

Madeleine said...

Great interview. I Love the sound of Beth Webb's books. Hadn't heard of her until now. Will certainly seek her out next time I'm in a bookshop :O)

Old Kitty said...

Thank you Len for a fab interview with Beth Webb. I love that she doesn't get writer's block but instead refreshes her brain with lots of reading (yay for libraries!!!)! I love what she says about prose written rhythmycally! Thanks to the link to her guardian blog - off I go to check it out!! Take care

KarenG said...

I want to be Beth Webb! Thoroughly enjoyed this interview. And very much agree with the music as this is how it is for me as well. Only I never thought of it like this, that music drowns out the rhythm of the words. And here my kids just thought I was a music hater! Now I can explain it better, thanks Beth and Len for this informative interview!

The Words Crafter said...

Your book sounds very interesting! I'll have to look for it. I understand about the rhythm of music; I can see whole scenes in time with certain songs...but total quiet distracts me. Isn't it neat the way we all have different requirements/needs?

Great interview and nice to meet you Beth!

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Great interview... left me wanting a cup of tea, though. Thanks for your comment on my interview at Joy's blog -- The Character Depot. Doralynn

Anne Gallagher said...

Great interview. Thanks so much for sharing.

Margo Benson said...

Thank you Len and Beth for a fascinating and interesting interview. I'm off to check these books out, I read the Mabinogion too! Your covers look beautiful and enticing. I can have music playing to accompany anything else I do except writing but hadn't thought of the rythmn aspect. Thanks again.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, she was three when she knew she wanted to be a writer. How fantastic! Great interview.

Jolene Perry said...

Thanks for the interview. I always like hearing what got people started and their journey along the way. Thanks!

Beth said...

Thanks for the blog Len - you make me sound almost human! And thanks everyone for your encouraging and really interesting comments. I think I owe everyone a cuppa tea! (Milk? Sugar? Cake?)
Wave HUnter (Bk 3)
is due out May 30th - brilliant speedpainting of the cover being made on

Glynis said...

What a lovely interview! It is great to learn more about published authors. Thank you, Len. Thank you, Beth.

Cake? Did you say cake? Yes please!

Chris Phillips said...

Those covers are pretty sweet. I also liked reading about how young you were when you first wanted to write.

Sophia the Writer said...

What a great interview!

Len I wanted to thank you so much for Picture Perfect, which I won through Theresa's blog. I've been meaning to get into Jodi Picoult for years now. Imagine my surprise when I received the book from the UK (I'd forgotten that's where it was coming from) yesterday. I opened it up last night and stayed up until the sun shone brightly reading it. Damn addictive! Thank you for reminding me that I still have the attention span for adult literature :D

J.L. Campbell said...

Len, I've given you an award on my blog.

Sarah Allen said...

Great interview! I always need new ideas from other writers. I like the reading-as-refresher idea :) Thanks so much for sharing!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

CherylAnne Ham said...

Excellent interview. Thanks so much. It's great to hear from authors and get their perspective on things.