Gill Arbuthnott — Winterbringers — Author Interview
In case you missed it, here’s the inverview with Gill Arbuthnott, author of the chilly Winterbringers.
Q: What inspired you to write Winterbringers?
Gill Abruthnott [GA]: A combination of the place it’s set, and the local legends, especially the history of witches in the East Neuk of Fife. And I’d kept reading articles about how Scotland could get much colder due to global warming if the Gulf Stream got pushed away from its normal track, so that got me thinking.
Q: Did you always want to be an author?
GA: Ooh yes. From the moment I learned how to read, I wanted to write as well. I didn’t think real people could do it for a long time though. I thought you had to be “special”. Luckily for me, you don’t!
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
GA: How long is that piece of string? Anything from six weeks to eighteen months for a first draft, but that’s only the start, of course. Most books go through lots of drafts before they’re fit to be seen by anyone else.
Q: How many books have you written?
GA: Eight that are published, two in the pipeline and about another half dozen either at the “polishing” stage or languishing in a drawer somewhere. And lots in my head, waiting their turn to be written!
Q: When did you first start writing books for children?
GA: In 2001. I’d been trying to get adult books published for years, with no success. I started on a new story and found, to my surprise, that it had turned into a children’s book. It eventually became The Chaos Clock and I realised that maybe I was actually a children’s writer…
Q: Are you working on a book at the moment?
GA: Always! I’m editing a novel, preparing to redraft another one after Christmas, working on an idea for a series of science books, and letting a new picture book idea take shape in my head.
Q: Who is your favourite character from all of your books?
GA: That’s a tricky one. I’m having real problems here… The one I would most like to be is Chutney Mary the cat from Winterbringers (because I think being a cat is a pretty cushy life), but I don’t think I actually have a favourite. I’m afraid to choose one in case the others all gang up on me.
Q: Have you ever based a character on someone you know in real life?
GA: Oh yes! Bits of people creep in all the time of course, but the only time I’ve done it on purpose was with the witches in Winterbringers who were based on my mum and three of her friends. I got cold feet after I’d done it, in case they were mortally offended at being turned into witches, but luckily for me, they really liked the idea. You do need to be a bit careful though…
Q: What is the best thing about being an author?
GA: Well, having Winterbringers made into a film will be pretty hard to beat! Not a Hollywood blockbuster, but an indie production by Parsons Green Primary School. They had a proper premiere and I got to dress up for it. That was a really special evening. I also love doing school visits and talking to the people who actually read my books.
Q: Do you plan all of your stories in advance?
GA: No. In fact, I’m dreadful at planning. I have to write the books to find out how they end. I’d get bored if I knew what was going to happen though… but it does mean I have to do a lot of rewriting, because the beginning quite often doesn’t make sense any more by the time I reach the end.
Q: How did you choose the location for the book?
GA: I’d set my first two books in Edinburgh, but I felt I’d used it up, so I needed somewhere different. The other area in Scotland that I know really well is the East Neuk of Fife. There are lots of interesting local stories and wonderful settings there, so I stole them all for Winterbringers.
Q: When you are writing, have your characters ever done anything unexpected?
GA: Yes. Sometimes I’ve pictured a scene in my head long before I wrote it, and by the time I get there, it just doesn’t work for the characters concerned any more. They’ve taken on a life of their own and they won’t cooperate. You can’t make them do something if they don’t want to; it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Q: In Winterbringers the summer weather turns inexplicably cold (even for Scotland). What is your favourite season and why?
GA: I like them all, so long as you get proper weather and not just endless damp. Give me a good, cold winter and a hot sunny summer and I’d be very, very happy.
Q: What do you think is the best thing about winter?
GA: Sitting in front of the fire in the evening, with the shutters closed and the wind howling outside, knowing you don’t have to go out, and can curl up with a book instead.
Q: What book (other than Winterbringers) do you think all children should read before they grow up?
GA: I would never say anyone should read anything! The important bit is to read something. Read what excites you, then read some more, and some more after that. I have to say though, that one of my favourite children’s books, and one that’s perfect for reading at this time of year, is The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I think anyone who enjoys Winterbringers would love it.