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Alette J. Willis — How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People) — Author Interview

Posted on 15/12/2011 in Author Interviews

In case you missed it, here’s the interview with Alette J. Willis, author of How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People).

Q: What inspired you to write How to Make a Golem and Terrify People?
Alette Willis [AW]: How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People) explores one girl’s attempts to get over her fears and the some of the choices she makes along the way. Fear can be a good thing, it can keep us safe and out of trouble, but if we’re not careful being afraid can become a difficult habit to break.

Q: In the book Edda hates her nickname “Mouse”. Did you have a nickname when you were at school?
AW: I had lots of nicknames when I was at school, all from the same friend, but she called people names out of affection, not meanness like Euan. Probably the most common name she called me was pretzel. I got back at her by calling her gherkin.

Q: Did you always want to be an author?
AW: I have always loved books and I’ve always dreamed of being an author, but there have been times when I came close to giving up. Last autumn, my work went down to part-time and I decided I’d use that extra time to work seriously on my writing. I’m glad I did so. Otherwise, there’d be no How to Make a Golem.

Q: How long did it take you to write the book?
AW: This book took me six months to write. I began writing it last September and I had to have it done for the Kelpies Prize deadline at the end of February. Having a deadline was great. It made me work extra hard. Without the deadline I probably would have taken a lot longer to write the book.

Q: Why did you choose Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh as the location for the book?
AW: Corstorphine Hill is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh; I go there quite often. One day as I was sitting under a sycamore tree on Corstorphine Hill, Edda popped into my head. She loved the Hill so much she wanted to live there, so really I had no choice in the matter.

Q: How do you decide what the cover looks like?
AW: The production manager is in charge of that. Luckily for me, Floris Books has a brilliant production manager and she hired the fabulous illustrator Nicola L Robinson and the rest is history. Really, I couldn’t be happier with the cover. It’s totally brilliant. Michael and Edda look exactly how I pictured them and it even has Benedict the pickled frog on the back!

Q: Apart from the golem, what is your favourite supernatural creature?
AW: Hmm, that’s a tough question. I’d have to say animals that talk and animals that turn into humans and vice versa, like Selkies and Werewolves. I’ve always wanted to be able to talk to animals and hear directly from them what it is like to be something other than a person. That is the greatest magic I think, to be able to cross the boundaries between people and animals.

Q: Did you ever try to make a supernatural creature as a child?
AW: Not exactly, but I spent a lot of my summer holidays making haunted houses in the basement of my house with the help of my sister and our friend Tanya, who lived next door. We took turns trying to scare each other by making disgusting things like bowls of eyeballs (skinless grapes) and heads with worms for hair (spaghetti). It was a lot of fun.

Q: What is the best thing about being an author?
AW: Holding a printed copy of the book I’d written in my hand for the first time, that was an amazing feeling. To know that total strangers would soon be reading something I’d written and hopefully enjoy it and be moved by it.

Q: Did you base any of the characters on someone you know in real life?
AW: Henry. My friend Marta has a lovely golden retriever named Henry. She had to leave him behind when she moved back to Argentina, so you can imagine how surprised I was to find him living with Mr. Campbell next door to Edda and her family.

Q: When you were writing did any of the characters ever do anything unexpected?
AW: I never expected Lucy to snort biscuit crumbs out of her nose, that’s for sure. But more seriously, to a certain extent everything the characters did was unexpected. I had a general idea of where the story was going and I knew quite a bit about the characters, but they always had the last say about what it was they were going to do on the page.

Q: Apart from How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People), what book do you think all children should read before they grow up?
AW: Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time. Every adult should read it too.

Q: When you sent in your manuscript, did you think you would win the Kelpies Prize 2011?
AW: No. I certainly hoped my book would win, but I was taken completely by surprise when Lari Don opened the envelope and read out my name..

Q: What did it feel like winning the Kelpies Prize?
AW: Just look at the photos that were taken on that night; my smile is so wide it almost splits my face it two. I’ve wanted to publish a novel for children for so many years, to actually know that my dream was coming true made me incredibly happy. It was a wonderful feeling and I’ll never forget that night.

Q: What advice would you give to all the budding young authors out there?
AW: Keep at it. Lots of people say they want to be authors. The ones who actually manage to fulfill their dreams are the ones who sit down and write and write and write. The ones that don’t become authors are the ones who talk about it, but rarely put pen to paper.

Thanks Alette!

Posted by: Benedicte at Discover Kelpies

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