Five minutes with Rebecca Westcott
Published on: 31 Gorffennaf 2014
Thank you! Yes - I'm currently working with Puffin on a third book, which will be out sometime next year. Like Dandelion Clocks and Violet Ink, the story is written in the first person, following the summer adventures of 12 year old Erin. She's quite feisty and rebellious and I've really enjoyed developing her character!
You deal with a variety of different 'issues' in Violet Ink - from bullying to dealing with a grandparent with dementia and everything in between. Is it important to you to include a variety of challenges in your books?
I think of my books as telling fairly quiet stories - nothing overly dramatic or sensational, just everyday stories of everyday families, hopefully in a way that children can access. Stories are a great way to develop emotional literacy - to work out how we would behave in an unfamiliar situation or explore how we feel about something in our own lives.
Writing books for children creates challenges - while the language and the storyline might be more simplistic than an adult book, the concepts involved are still just as complex. This is something I really enjoy about being a children's author. Children are living in the same families, the same world, as adults. They experience many of the same difficulties and are aware of the worries of their parents. They need books that will help them to understand challenging situations and form their own opinions about how they feel, while at the same time allowing them to explore new scenarios on their own terms, at a pace they feel happy with. Children's books should enable readers to think, to laugh and to be challenged while still allowing them to be children.
The majority of us read for a variety of reasons. To be entertained. To learn something different. To understand the world we live in. To escape the world we live in. Children are no different to adults when it comes to reading. They want to come away from the experience having gained something new.
You include some embarrassing stories as well, like Izzy's experiences in PE lessons, for example. Where did the inspiration for the book come from, from Izzy's PE lessons to her sister's fondness for letter-writing?
The inspiration for Violet Ink came from a packet of letters that my Granny gave me when I was a teenager. The letters had been written by my Mum, when she left home at 18 and went to Switzerland with my Dad. I can't really tell you any more than that without giving the plot away, except to say that all families have stories and mine is no exception - enough to keep me writing books for years!
As a writer, I do tend to mercilessly use my own and my children's experiences as material. Izzy's horrendous basketball lesson was told pretty much exactly as it happened to me, aged 16. I was hopeless at PE but a constant believer that I just needed to discover 'my' sport. The entire incident was made so much worse by my own excitement and deluded belief that I had actually done well - my friends refused to speak to me for a few days afterwards!
What wisdom do you hope your readers will walk away with after having read Violet Ink?
I'm not sure that I'm in a position to impart any wisdom to my readers, but I think the thing I would most like them to take from Violet Ink is that families come in all shapes and sizes and that sometimes, a situation that seems like a disaster can end up changing everything for the better.
Also, that letter writing is something that can bring a lot of happiness for very little effort!
If someone loved reading your books, what other books would you recommend to them?
Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy have both written many books based on families and coming of age stories. I love A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson and Wonder by R.J Palacio. My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece and Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher are also fantastic!
Check our Rebecca's book
A Matter of Life and Death
Read our booklist of our favourite books for teenagers that explore difficult topics.