Have you read this?

The Time Wreccas

You can follow me and ask questions on Twitter.


Q&A for the 2005 Ottakars Book Prize, for which Val and her first published novel, The Time Wreccas, was nominated.

When did you start writing?
All my life I have scribbled away at ‘my nonsense’ as I call it, but I didn’t complete a full length novel until I was recovering from an operation in 1990. I was not allowed to work for two months. Bliss! I wrote all day. It was a terrible story, by the way!

What did you do before writing full time?
I was a teacher. I taught every age group from 5-18 years and loved it.

Did you write many books before you actually got published?
I wrote four full-length novels before I was published. The other three are for grown-ups and I have never tried to get them published.

How did the idea for Time Wreccas come together?
I have one of those brains that can see potential stories in most situations. Every day I get new ideas. One day, I was walking through Greenwich Park. Every one seemed to be in a hurry and I wondered what would happen if time suddenly stopped.

How much did you plot and plan the story before you wrote it?
The planning went on in my head for weeks before I had the entire story. Then I started writing. The first version was 12,500 words. That was edited many times. One day the name ‘Sheldon Croe’ popped into my head. With him came a whole new storyline. The Time Wreccas is now 75,000 words.

From idea to completed novel, how long did it take to write?
That depends what you mean by ‘completed novel’. If you mean the version that Puffin published, that would be seven years. But a lot happened in those years. Initially, I was writing in my spare time. With four children and a job, I didn’t get much. Then I fell ill and was only able to get about in a wheelchair. I was very poorly and couldn’t do anything. Slowly, my strength returned and writing was just about the only thing I could do. I managed no more than 20 mins at the computer in any one day. It was a long, slow process, but I think writing helped me get well again.

Did you have any/many rejections before getting accepted?
When The Time Wreccas was 12,500 words I sent it to a publisher who told me that there was nothing in the story that made him want to turn to the next page and so I re-wrote it. I then sent the 75,000 word version to a dozen agents. Only two asked to read the whole manuscript. The first, her name was Janice, told me it was too long. Then Pat asked to read it. She liked it and she is now my agent.

Do you have a writing routine?
Yes and no! I do my best work in the mornings. If I wake up early, I will be at my computer by 5:00 am, at other times I don’t get there until 8:00 or sometimes 9:00. I will write for two or three hours and then walk the dog. If any problems have arisen during the morning’s writing, this is when I thrash them out. When I arrive home I’ll write for another couple of hours and then stop because I am all ‘written out’ for the day. However, sometimes I cannot write at all. This is when I say that the ‘Muse’ is not with me and I do something else until she returns. She could return in a five minutes or five weeks. The Muse is very fickle!

What books did you read as a child?
I’m sorry to say that I did not read many books as a child. I can’t remember a single book that I read in primary school. Now, I must have read some, but none of them made any sort of impression. The only books I remember reading at home were the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. I must have been about seven. No one helped me to find books that might interest me and so I formed a wrong impression. I thought I did not like reading. When I grew up I found that I like reading enormously, I just have to take the trouble to find the right book. I regret that I missed out on so much when I was young.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I am not writing I like to make all sorts of different crafts. My favourite is stained glass. I make all sorts of things including lampshades and Christmas decorations that look lovely when lit up. I also enjoy pottery, often making little houses that I light from inside. I sew patchwork quilts, spin wool which I then knit or weave and make bobbin lace. In 1997 I wrote a book on how to make teddy bears. I also enjoy walking, reading, the theatre, films, supporting my football team and watching rugby and tennis.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions (not to do with writing)?
My dear father was a bomber pilot during World War II. He flew Liberators and one of the planes he flew is in an air museum in Canada. Before he died, I told him that one day I would travel to Canada and sit in his pilot’s seat. He really liked the idea and I look forward to keeping my promise. 

If you could meet any author, from any time, who would it be and why?
It would be Charlotte Bronte. If I took tea with her, I might be lucky and meet one or both of her sisters too. They were women ahead of their time. I find it difficult to believe that some of their ideas came out of 19th century heads, they sound exactly right for the 21st century. I would love to talk to them about their ideas. I would also like to tell them how women’s lives have changed in the last 150 years. I think they would be very pleased.