Helen Cresswell was the Guest of Honour at the launch of the 1999-2000 Big 3 Book Prize. Here's what she told us about books and reading.
"Basic literacy is fine, but there is something beyond that.
"Log on to your imagination… that's the real Internet ... and you can access it just by opening a book."
The Helen Cresswell Interview
Q. What advice would you give to a young writer?
A. Get yourself a notebook and try to write something, however short, every single day. Any writer under God's sun must read, read, read!
Q. What are your favourite children's authors?
A. I read Walter de la Mare, Eleanor Farjean, Enid Blyton when I was a child.
Q. How old were you when you wrote your first book?
A. When I wrote my first book which was a story in chapters I was 8 years old: when I wrote one to be published I was 24 years old!
Q. What kind of stories do I like to write?
A. Two main kinds: one is fantasy like timeslips such as Moondial and Stonestruck, and the other is funny books like the 10 books about the Bagthorpes, who are a modern funny family.
Q. Did your love of walking through graveyards inspire Moondial?
A. I've had some spooky experiences in graveyards, yes…
Q. What gives you inspiration?
A. It could come anywhere at any time: I've had ideas from watching Blue Peter (The Bongleweeds), newspaper articles (Piemakers) and from visiting a place like Belton House (Moondial).
Q. How did you react when you knew your first book was to be published?
A. Beforehand I thought it would be THE most important day of my life. As it happened I was in bed with gastric flu being very very sick! My mother brought me up this letter which I couldn't be bothered to open at first. When I opened it and took in the news, I said: "This is the best day of my life and I wish I were dead!"
Q. What was your first published book?
A. A bad question! It's worth £30-40 now if you can find a copy -- but it was "Sonya-By-The-Shore". It's embarrassing now to think of it.