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Interview with Brian Jacques

Brian Jacques was born and bred in Liverpool and (sorry Everton fans!) is a Liverpool supporter. (Overseas readers please note, we're talking soccer here). But he has also travelled widely because at the age of 15 he went to sea and sailed the world before returning to his home town. He has been a performer, both folk singer and comedien, a playwright and radio presenter. His wonderful Redwall books, celebrating their 10th Anniversary this year (1996 - ed), have sold over 2 million copies worldwide and have been translated into several languages, from Dutch to Japanese, as well as winning numerous awards. So many children wrote in with questions for him that we accepted some from four different sources: Truro School in Cornwall (we were delighted to hear from Cornwall at last!), King Edward VI School in Handsworth, Rugby High School and home-educated Sarah Watton.

How did you begin your writing career? How old were you when you decided to become an author? From your experience, what advice would you give young writers to get them started as proper authors?

I have always been a keen writer. Even at school it was my one real forte. There is not a day when a person suddenly becomes an 'Author'. Over many years of writing for different media a style develops and the ease and comfort of writing what you really know about is very important to this development.

Do you have a particular way of starting your novels? Do you do a lot of planning before you start writing? How long does it take you to write a Redwall novel?

I start at the beginning and go on until the story ends. Usually it takes about four months.

Where do you get the ideas for your novels? Do you keep notebooks or collect articles from newspapers and magazines or do you find that ideas just arrive?

My ideas come crowding into my mind and then they clamour to be let out. I take my little West Highland Terrier for a good long walk around the city park where I played as a child and we talk it over and then I sit down in my garden, to write until the tale is done.

What made you decide to make your characters animals? How do you balance their animal side and their human-type activities? Do you find that hard? What sort of problems does it cause? What advantages has it got?

I like animals, they have character and personality. It isn't hard to imagine that they talk and have adventures. I don't have any problems with it.

You met one of our young writers and told her that the most important thing was to learn how to "paint a picture with words". Can you give us any advice as how to do this well?

Play with words. Don't be satisfied until the picture is right. Read it aloud. Close your eyes and see it, then imagine a huge cinema screen in front of you. Say to yourself, 'Is this a picture I would like to see?'

Thank-you very much Brian Jacques!

Read more interviews of leading authors by children.

YoungWriter was a magazine published from 1995 to 2003 by Kate Jones.
We here at Myst Ltd had the pleasure of producing the magazine for Kate.
Sadly, Kate passed away in 2010.