Ahead of the publication of her debut novel, Dandelion Clocks, we chat to author, teacher and mum-of-three Rebecca Westcott.
How long did it take you to write Dandelion Clocks and Violet Ink?
I tend to write a first draft quite quickly – it takes me about six to eight weeks, writing after work in the evenings and at weekends. Being a teacher is great because I get lots of writing time during the holidays, which helps! Once the first draft is written I’ll take my time on the edit, really developing the voice of the main character and making sure that there are no inconsistencies in the plot.
Does anyone read your books while you are in the process of writing them?
I’m really lucky to have an incredibly supportive family, who read everything that I write (and have an opinion on everything I write too!). My 11 year old daughter was the first person to read both books. In fact, it was a conversation that I had with her in our garden one day last spring that gave me the idea for Dandelion Clocks. She also helped me to write some of Izzy’s poems in Violet Ink. Once I’m happy with what I’ve written, I’ll ask people to have a read and give me their thoughts. My husband, mum, sister and lovely friends are great at doing this!
Which authors have inspired you?
One of my favourite authors is Robert Cormier. He writes about topics that are quite grown-up in a way that younger readers can access, without being patronising. I often find his books chilling – they always leave me with a list of questions and wanting more. When I was a child I loved Judy Blume. I would read her books and feel as if I completely knew the characters, even though their lives were so different to mine. Now, I enjoy reading books by authors like Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and John Green. They aren’t afraid of tackling ‘big’ issues. After all, life happens to everyone – not just to adults.
What is your favourite way to spend a day off from teaching and writing?
I love spending time with my family. We are all big fans of camping and what I enjoy most is sitting in the sunshine watching my husband cook us an amazing campfire meal while our three children race around on their bikes (I’m not completely lazy though – I do the washing-up!). In the winter, if I’m not writing then I’m probably reading, while my husband cooks us a meal and the children create chaos with nerf guns. (You can probably tell that I really, really hate cooking.) Actually, I’m not that fond of housework either, so at the weekends we play a card game after supper – the loser has to do the washing up.
I want to be a writer. What are your top tips for getting published?
Write for fun! When I wrote Dandelion Clocks I was so excited by the idea that I wanted to write it down just to find out if I could create a story from beginning to end. I didn’t write to get published – I write because it makes me feel happy.
Sometimes, write as quickly as you possibly can. Don’t worry about whether it’s perfect – just enjoy the excitement of writing your words down. And then leave it. One of my favourite things about writing is returning to read something I wrote a while ago. It’s a great way of figuring out what works in your writing.
Write for lots of different reasons. Being a writer doesn’t mean that you are writing a book. It means that you communicate and record information using written words. So write a diary, write letters, write emails, send texts. Make lists, write a poem that you’ll only ever show one person, leave notes for your family on the fridge in magnetic letters. Write using as many exciting, interesting words as you can and then write using only twenty words. Play about – it’s your words and there aren’t any rules.
Don’t give up. If someone gives you feedback on your writing (it could be your friends, family or a teacher) then listen to what they have to say. Try out their ideas and decide if it improves your writing. If it does, then great – you’ve developed your skills. If it doesn’t, then you haven’t lost anything.