Having been utterly charmed by Anne-Marie Conway's Star Makers series, and really looking forward to her upcoming standalone Butterfly Summer, I jumped at the chance to interview her.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
I suppose at the moment I see nine or ten year-old girls who love real-life stories as well as a bit of singing and dancing. This might change when my next book comes out, Butterfly Summer, as it is slightly more grown-up and much darker.
2. It's been rather a long time since I appeared on stage myself, but my sister has always loved being involved in drama and I know from what she's told me that your Star Makers series is extremely realistic. Do you have much first-hand knowledge of amateur dramatics?
Yes I have loads. I’ve been running my own children’s theatre company, Full Circle, for years and years. We meet on Saturday afternoons (it used to be all day but that was before I had my own children) and we put on fab musicals. I always belonged to a drama group when I was growing up so my experience really does go way back. I just LOVE putting on a musical, even though the process is SO stressful you wouldn’t believe.
3. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, do any of the Star
Makers series have a particular soundtrack?
Actually I listen to 5 live all day. I’m married to a radio journalist and we seem to have the radio on practically 24/7. I like to have background noise while I’m writing - it doesn’t distract me at all.
4. Your upcoming stand-alone novel Butterfly Summer sounds
significantly darker than the Star Makers books. Is this a sign that
your writing's moving in a new direction, or will you go back to the
lighter style in the future?
Yes Butterfly Summer is much darker and very sad. Also the book I’m working on at the moment is pretty sad and has a tragic premise. It’s not intentional, although I am very interested in the darker side of family life. However if my publishers wanted more Star Makers books I’d be happy to write them. I’ve got lots more ideas for the series but the decision is out of my hands.
5. What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
My biggest piece of advice would be to join a critiquing group and get loads of feedback. You can get so close to your work that it’s basically impossible to see the woods for the trees and another pair of eyes on it can be invaluable - not to mention the support when the rejection slips start to drop through the post (I speak from experience!)
6. I really enjoy series which, like the Star Makers Club, focus on a
different person in each book. Out of the three you've released so
far, can you pick a favourite narrator?
In some ways Polly was my favourite of the three because I loved how angry she was and how sad she felt about her mum going away. I lived without my parents from quite a young age and I know that rejected, empty feeling very well. I also love the Monty B storyline in that particular book, although my favourite line in all three books is when Sam says the dog chewed up her new braaaaaaaaaan jumper. I know it’s probably not for me to say but it really made me laugh out-loud while I was writing it.
7. Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a
novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead,
I'm feeling generous!)
My husband and I had an idea for a book a little while ago which we thought we might write together because it was about football and he would have all the inside knowledge and I’d have the actual writing experience. The problem is we’d never agree on anything and he’d want to take all the credit and it might not be very good for our marriage. More seriously, I really, really want to write a funny book next and I LOVE the Mr Gum books, but I wouldn’t really want to write with Andy Stanton, I just want to write something that funny!
8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask
and who would you ask it to?
I would like to ask JK Rowling if there was a particular moment when she realised that Harry Potter was going to such a phenomenal success. Actually I’d like to just sit down with her and ask her lots and lots of questions. I’m afraid I am slightly obsessed, not with her books so much, but more with the way the whole story played out. I’m very ambitious and realise I’ve entered an extremely competitive and frustrating profession - so I suppose I’m more than a little envious.
9. Which book would you recommend to people who enjoy the Star Makers
Club, and why?
I suppose Jacqueline Wilson would be the obvious answer because her books are always about real-life family situations and maybe Cathy Cassidy? I’m not sure really. My favourite children’s author is Jenny Valentine but her books are a bit more grown-up than the Star Makers series.
10. What's next for Anne-Marie Conway?
Butterfly Summer which is coming out in May 2012: A dark and mysterious story about family secrets and obsessive friendships. Following that, hopefully the book I’m working on now, Forbidden Friends (working title) - and then as I said earlier, I really want to write something FUNNY! I have got some ideas about a girl and her very rude parrot - but not much else to say about it at this stage.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Anne-Marie. I hope Butterfly Summer is a massive success!