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Vivian French Interview with TeensReadToo.com

February 05, 2010

First off, thanks so much for joining us for an up-close and personal interview for TeensReadToo.com! My name is Jen, and I’ll be your server toda…oh, wait, wrong job! Anyway, thanks so much for taking time out of your writing schedule - which I’m sure is busy! - and answering a few questions for your readers and fans.


 Let’s get some of the typical interview questions out of the way first. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?


Erm … I didn’t really ever think Aha! I want to be a writer! I always thought I wanted to be an actor, and I was for quite a while – the writing sort of happened by accident.





Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publishing?


Well, like I said, I was an actor. I used to tour schools and theatres with a company that put on shows for children; eventually I even had my own company. Gradually that changed, and I did more and more storytelling – and then I met someone who wrote children’s books. (Very good ones, too.) She asked me why I didn’t try to write my stories down, and after a total panic attack (what do I write about????????) I wrote a story about my very annoying little brother. Diana sent it to her publisher, and WOW!!! I had a picture book published. In fact, two – because it turned out I had a LOT to say about my brother ….




What, or who, has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?

Diana Hendry - the friend who started me off on a writing career - once told me that feelings were the most important thing to write about. We all have them, and that’s what makes us behave in the different ways we do … so I guess the answer is just that. Feelings. Emotions … 





Let’s hear about your family, who I’m sure are thrilled to have a published author among them!


I’d like to think they were thrilled, but I’m not convinced. I’ve got a lovely husband, Davy, and four grown up daughters (Alice, Jessica, Jemima and Nancy) - and three grandchildren. (Jack, Nathaniel and Dorothy.) Jack, who’s six, is quite certain that I write every book on every bookshelf, and wants to know why I don’t write about HIM more. My daughters think writing is just a way of earning a living, and I’d say that’s quite right - I think that way too. Jemima is a theatre director, so she directs plays (for children AND grown ups), and Jessica is a film producer, so in a way we’re all telling stories but in different ways. (When my girls were little sometimes I had to rush off to an early performance. They say they’ve never got over the embarrassment of having a mother who dropped them off at school dressed as a bright green caterpillar … )


Now for some fun facts. What’s your greatest comfort food?



Now we’re talking. Chocolate (I’ve even written a book about it. The research was MAGIC!) I also love mashed potato. And parsnips. (Do you have parsnips in the US? If not, I’ll send some over … ) And I adore little tiny tomatoes straight off the vine ….




What are the first three things you do when you wake up in the morning?

  1. Knock my alarm clock over while I try to stop it ringing.
  2. Moan that it’s MUCH too early.
  3. Sneak another ten minutes in bed …




If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most?

I live in a top floor apartment, so we don’t have an attic or a basement. The closet? H’m …  the uni-cycle? (That’s my youngest daughter’s, but I’ve had a go. I’m USELESS!) Or the caterpillar costume? (Yes. I kept it. I might need it one day … )

Hey - wouldn’t it be cool if I could ride the uni-cycle while I was wearing the caterpillar costume?



Everyone asks the question about “if you could be a tree, which tree would you be?” so I want to know: If you could be a color, which color would it be, and why?

I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me what tree I’d be, actually. (A beech tree, I’ve decided. Copper beech. Look up through the leaves when the sky is blue and you’ll see exactly why.) Color? Hum. Maybe black, because then all the other colors of the world would be hidden inside. And I love very very dark nights … and black velvet gowns … (Just like Lady Lamorna in The Robe of Skulls.)



Who is your favorite cartoon character?

Lisa Simpson.





Which cartoon character is most like you?



Road Runner




If you could beam yourself to anywhere in the world (“Beam me up, Scotty!”), during any time in history, where and when would it be—and why?



1000bc in Egypt. I’m writing a book about Horemkanesi (his mummy is in a museum in Bristol, England) and I’d love to ask him if he really did have terrible toothache. (His teeth are worn right down …)




So what’s your favorite type of music to listen to?  Favorite musical artists? Do you listen to music while you’re writing?


I LOVE listening to music, especially live music. I heard Neil Young play live this year, and I’m going to see Leonard Cohen this summer. (Ask your parents … or grandparents.) And I really like what the UK industry calls alternative country music - Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Mary Gautier, and especially The Willard Grant Conspiracy. (Doom, gloom and the end of the world …. ) I don’t listen while I’m writing, though, as it tends to distract me.





Do you have any favorite T.V. shows?  Movies you watch over and over again?  What was the last movie you saw at the theater?

I really like the Simpsons, House, and the Sopranos. My fave movie of all time is The Princess Bride - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it. And I’ve watched Toy Story loads as well - and Toy Story 2. The last movie I saw was Son of Rambow; that was great, although the story had a few gaping ho;es in it - but the boys were FANTASTIC!






You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your teen readers. What would it be?

Read read read read. And find a friend who doesn’t like the same books as you do, and try and convince them to try one of yours … argue it out! And try something you think you WON’T like. You don’t have to finish it … just give it a try. 





One last question. What stories can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’ve just finished writing The Bag of Bones – it’s got a lot of the same characters as The Robe of Skulls. And a whole lot more beside … (TOO many. I got really muddled at one point, and had to go back and start again.) I’ve just begun the next one, which is called The Heart of Glass …






Again, thanks so much for joining us at TeensReadToo.com!

Thank YOU very much. It’s been a real pleasure. And if you’re asking, I’ll have a skinny latte, please …. And do you have any chocolate?