How do you say your name?
Like this: Shin-Aid. Think of a big band-aid that you’d put on your shin. Or perhaps a musical concert to raise money for shin awareness. The other bit, fairly simply, is just ‘Oh Heart’.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to live a creative life – not necessarily as a writer, but I wanted to make art of some sort. I thought about being a singer, and then a visual artist; I wasn’t quite good enough at either of those things to make a living out of them, and anyway, I had always loved reading and writing. Then, when I was about twenty, I wrote my first ‘book’ – and it was terrible. But it showed me that I could have an idea and make something full-length out of it, which was useful. It took almost another twenty years to happen again – but, you know. Good things take time.
Where do your ideas come from?
When I was a kid, my parents got my brother and me a set of Childcraft encyclopedias (which were basically Google, only in print form). One of the supplements to the set was a book of myths and legends from all over the world, including Norse mythology, and stories about giant sea monsters, which inspired my first book, The Eye of the North. There was also an entry in one of the other volumes about the Tunguska event, which took place in the early twentieth century. It grabbed my imagination (and it ended up in my book The Star-Spun Web). I loved reading about facts, or scientific theories, or myths and legends, or – well, basically anything! And all these things went into my ‘Creativity Cauldron’, in the back of my mind, where they bubble away happily until they’re ready to come out and make something new. (Fun fact: did you know, you have a Creativity Cauldron too? Everyone does! If you keep it full, who knows what you might create.) I kept up this habit and I still read a lot, keeping my Creativity Cauldron nice and full. So, all the books I’ve written have featured things I loved reading about, things I first came across in stories or encyclopedias, and which stuck in my head because I thought they were cool. I am also inspired by funny words, different languages, road signs, newspaper headlines, things that are happening in the world, and sometimes even things people say – I’ve often been inspired by listening to someone talking, and something about the rhythm of their words or the sound of their voice will bring a character alive in my head. So, basically, I like to tell everyone I am a Storyfinder – a person who is always on the lookout for stories. They’re out there, just waiting for us to spot them. Will you be a Storyfinder, too?
What are your top writing tips?
If you want to write, you need to read. Read! Read all the time. Read on the loo. Read in the bath, on the bus, at the breakfast table… you get the idea. And write as much as you can, for fun and for practice and because you love it. Also, never ever be without a notebook and a working pen, because you never know when inspiration will strike.
Are you going to write more books?
I hope so! I have three novels published – The Eye of the North, The Star-Spun Web, and Skyborn, along with an early reader titled The Ravens’ Call. You can find out all about them here. I have a contract for a fourth novel, which will be published in 2023, and after that… shh! I can’t say anything further (but, rest assured, there will be more books from me).
I would keep writing books anyway, whether they were ever going to be published or not. I’m just very lucky to have published so many books, so far!
What’s so great about being a writer?
Well, everything. Mostly, it’s the fact that I get to do the thing I love – though it can be scary to think of people reading the things I’ve written! Also, it means I have a job which can fit around my family, more or less. I have a young child, and it’s important to me that I’m there to do the raising and the nappy-changing and the playing and the reading and the trips to the park… so writing lets me do that.
Are you ever going to write a grown-up book?
Well. The short answer is ‘no’. The long answer is: why would I bother? There are plenty of writers out there better equipped than me to write books about the things grown-ups are interested in. When you write for children you really do have a chance to touch the lives and minds of your readers, which is a huge and scary privilege. My life was shaped by the books I read as a kid, and I love that children’s books have that power. I’d love to write books which are read and re-read, and which are loved until their binding falls apart. How many adults do that to their books? Not many.
Plus, it’s much more fun to write stories about friendship and adventure and magic and myth and fabulous creatures and saving the world than it is to write about almost anything else. You don’t get to do that a lot with books for grown-ups, who like to read about mortgages and marriage and murder, mainly. I have written stories for grown-ups, some of which have been published, but I won’t write a book for them. Which is probably for the best.
Who are your favourite writers?
Okay. A representative sample would include: Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine l’Engle, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Connolly, Jeanette Winterson, Dave Rudden, Frances Hardinge, Catherine Fisher, Claire North, Malorie Blackman, Toni Morrison, Sarah Waters, Vashti Hardy, Juliette Forrest, Efua Traoré, Sharna Jackson, H.S. Norup, Hanna Alkaf, L.D. Lapinski, Jennifer Bell, Becky Chambers, Robin Stevens… and so many more.
What’s your favourite colour?
I love purple, but blue will do at a push.
How old are you?
Will you visit my school/library/writers’ group/knitting circle?
I’m always open to making visits to places where readers love to gather. Get in touch and we’ll see if we can work something out.