Happy Birthday, Melvin Burgess, born 25 April 1954
- I prefer e-books. I know people get all nostalgic about paper, but for years I’ve hated having my house cluttered up with hundreds of books that I’ll never read again.
- When I was a child I used to read books by Gerald Durrell, who founded Jersey Zoo. He had a job collecting animals for zoos and for a long time that is what I wanted to do. Later when I was a teenager I had a fantastic English teacher called Mrs. Stafford. Her enthusiasm made me decide to be a writer.
- I read all the time so it’s difficult to say who my all-time favourites are. One is George Orwell, because he makes political writing so simple a child could understand it.
- In terms of sheer writing I might have done most of my work by 11. If you get up at 6:30 or 7 you can get a huge amount done by 11 and have the rest of the day off if you want to, though I have to check my accumulating e-mails.
- Just keep writing, even if you’re writing rubbish. Once you have something down, you have some material to work with. It’s all in the edit, so don’t be fussy on the first, or even the second or third drafts. Or, get away, leave it alone for a while. Have a bath, don’t think about it, then try again. Sometimes you need to leave a problem in the back of your mind before it comes together.
- I spend a lot of time turning the scenes and characters over in my head before hand, trying to imagine what might happen. I often get two or three scenes in my mind that seem to be typical, or perhaps occur at dramatic points in the story. Then I fill in the gaps. I usually do a synopsis before I start.
- I love people, and I love their stories, and I believe that behind every face, there is a story waiting to be told. Very often the most dramatic stories come from people who live on the margins of society, or who have problems in their lives. So that’s it, really – difficult subjects hold the best stories.
Burgess is a British writer of children’s fiction. His novel, Junk won the 1996 Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
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