Jamila Gavin: Interview

Jamila Gavin at the Daisy Launch, 9th October 1999 at Cheltenham

Questions prepared by pupils of Butterwick Primary School, Lincolnshire, UK

Q. When and where were you born?

A. I was born in the foothills of the Himalayas in India on 9 August 1941.

Q. What are your hobbies?

A. My hobbies include reading, films, theatre, tennis - and playing the piano, though music is not really a hobby but my life's blood.

Q. Do you have any pets?

A. I used to have a dog and a cat and a fish and a gerbil and a rabbit, but now I have none, except visits from the badgers.

Q. What were you like at school?

A. At school I was scatty, enthusiastic and rebellious depending on the subject

Q. What subject did you like the most and the least at school

A. I liked Music most and Maths least.

Q. Do you write about your family?

A. The only identifiable person in my family that I've written about was my father who was my model for Grandpa Chatterji.

Q. Do your books make children laugh?

A. I think I can make children laugh, such as in Ali and the Robots and Grandpa Chatterji, but I think most of my books are rather serious. I want to change that.

Q. When did you start to write?

A. I started writing as soon as I could write, but I didn't try to publish till 1979.

Q. How old were you when you started being a author?

A. I was 38 when my first book, The Magic Orange Tree, was published.

Q. What kinds of books do you like to read?

A. I like reading a wide range of books from novels and biographies to poetry and books about music. I like books which reveal things to me whether its fiction or nonfiction.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. I get my ideas from everywhere by keeping my eyes and ears open.

Q. How did you get the idea for The Elephant's Revenge?

A. I heard many elephant stories when I was in India, and this was a true story someone told me which I thought was worth writing down.

Q. Why do you like writing?

A. I like writing because I can explore all my interests and concerns. It's my form of communication.

Q. How much do you write at a time?

A. I often have one teenage novel on the go each year, combined with a shorter novel for Juniors, and odd short stories for collections.

Q. Do you try out your stories on an audience, before sending them to your publisher?

A. I hardly ever try out my stories on an audience first.

Q. Which authors do you like reading?

A. As a child, the authors I liked were Alison Uttley of "Little Grey Rabbit", Hans Anderson's Fairy Tales and Grimms' Fairy Tales, and I loved Robert Louis Stevenson. Later, I loved Dickens, Jane Austen, The Bronte sisters and George Eliot as well as so many of today's writers like Louis de Berniere and Rohinton Mistrey.

Q. What or who encouraged you to write books?

A. I started writing books because I felt there were no books about all the many different children who live in Britain today - children like me from other ethnic backgrounds. I was hugely encouraged by Marilyn Malin who published my first book, and later by bymy editor at the same publisher - now called Egmont - who never let me lose heart or get discouraged.

Q. Did you always what to be a an author?

A. Although I always loved writing, I didn't want to be an author. I wanted to be a musician.

Q. What do you like most about being a writer?

A. I like being a writer because it has given me a life and a career, and enabled me to meet so many interesting people. And what luck to be able to write the sort of stories I always wanted to read!

Q. Do you draw illustrations as well as write?

A. I often draw - but for myself. I wish I was good enough to illustrate my own books, but I'm not.

Q. Do you want to be a writer for the rest of your life?

A. Yes, I do want to write for the rest of my life. It's one of the few things in life for which there is no age barrier in either childhood or old age.

To Jamila Gavin's Bibliography

a list of Jamila's books that you can read at the library or buy for yourself.

Start reading Daisy and the Intergalactic Travelling Salesmen

Web design and co-ordination by Helen Whitehead © 1999

for the Cheltenham Festival of Literature

last amended 6th October 1999