Our chat with Alex…
I’ve always loved writing as a hobby since I was very small, but I never thought I could write a whole book. I kept trying, and failing, and thinking I would never be able to do it. But something made me keep coming back to it. It was only when I did a class at CityLit while I was on maternity leave that I started writing seriously and submitting work. I had a couple of picture books published but didn’t have any success with longer fiction until I did the Bath Spa MA, which really helped me raise my game and produce the manuscript for Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond. So, there was no specific moment, just a long and unglamorous slog!
I recently heard from a teacher on Twitter that she was reading Sky Pirates with her class and they didn’t want to go to lunch because they were so keen to hear the next chapter. Also, lots of children seem to like Gilbert, the lizard, which I’m very pleased about as it took quite a bit of work to get him right.
I read very widely as a child and really enjoyed Willard Price’s adventure series. Unfortunately, they’ve not aged very well (the premise of the books is that they are capturing wild animals to sell to circuses, plus there are quite colonialist attitudes too) so I wouldn’t recommend them to children now. Luckily, there are plenty of brilliant children’s books being published all the time. Some recent favourites are The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook, The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke and Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.
In normal circumstances, I write while my children are at school, but recently I’ve had to write in early mornings, late nights and weekends while home schooling during lockdown. I started out writing while my baby napped, so I’m used to squeezing it in amongst everything else. It’s actually amazing how much you can write in small snatches of time. I often dictate to my iPhone while I’m walking to collect the kids from school, or write on my phone while I’m on the train.
I’d love to cast Nico Parker (who played Milly Farrier in Tim Burton’s Dumbo) as Echo. To persuade her, I’d ply her with pickled squibnuts and promise her a ride on a mechanical dragon.