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Interview with Dick King Smith

Dick King-Smith worked as a farmer and a teacher before becoming a writer. He uses all the experience he gained from those jobs as a source of ideas. Unlike Terry Pratchett, our guest author in Issue 3, he is not comfortable around modern technology. He writes his stories by hand and then types them up with two fingers on an old-fashioned typewriter! You see, there is no one right way. The important things for a writer are the mind and the imagination and the control of language. Dick lives near Bristol and was interviewed by the children of Greetland Primary School, who also drew the little pictures we used when we first published this interview in YoungWriter Magazine.

What made you start writing children's stories? Where do you get all your ideas from? Do new ideas come easily to you?

I'd always written lots of verse, but never actually tried my hand at a story till something sparked me off - which was when I was a farmer and a fox killed a lot of my chickens. One day, I thought, I'll have a go at writing a story where the weak are the winners, not the strong. About ten years later, I did have a go, and that became 'The Fox Busters', my first book.
I get ideas from things I've seen or done, people I meet, animals I've known, but mostly I just sit there and cook up ideas, often crazy ones that don't work. Yes, new ideas do come fairly easily.

What is your favourite of all the books you have written, and who is your favourite character?

I think probably 'The Sheep-Pig' (even before it became 'Babe'). My favourite character is Sophie.

When you choose a character is it mainly to please yourself or mainly because you think that character will appeal to children?

A little bit of both, really.

What made you think about giving animals human characteristics?

I always try hard to keep an animal's own real characteristics, but I allow them some human ones, especially speech, because it is such fun putting words into their mouths.

Could you give us any advice on how to write a book?

Read as widely as you can. Practise writing stories. Show your work to grown-ups. Listen to their comments.

Did your family want you to be an author, or would they have been happier for you to stay a farmer or a teacher?

In an ideal world I'd have stayed a farmer, but I was a bad businessman and went bust. I'm very happy that things have turned out the way they have.

How do you feel about being one of the best children's authors alive today?

Very happy indeed!

Thank-you very much Dick King Smith!

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.