Dan is a master storyteller, as well as a brilliant author, and we are delighted that he was able to find some to time in his busy schedule to answer some questions from the Inkpots children.
Do you write in silence or do you need some noise around you?
It’s got to be really quiet for me to be able to write. If there is any sort of background noise, I tend to really struggle to focus. I have heard about other writers working with music in the background, but we are all different and it doesn’t work for me. Plus, I like to read the text aloud as part of the editing process, so I need to get a feel for how the writing sounds, so a quiet environment is best.
How long do you write per day?
I don’t write every day. Some days I am out on school visits so I don’t have the opportunity to write. I tend to write in bursts that can range from a couple of hours to six or seven hours. It all depends on my mood and how creative I am feeling. If I have a storyline clear in my head, I can get on a ‘writing roll’ and that is the best feeling in the world. There’s no stopping the words and they flow freely.
Do you type or write?
I wrote the first draft of Impossible Tales by hand in a notebook then typed it up during the editing process. After that I typed the stories straight on to the computer. I take the hand written version of the first Tales to schools, along with all of the typed manuscripts, to show the children the editing process. It proves that you don’t need a top-of-the-range laptop to be a writer – paper and a pen will do the job!
What is your favourite book that you didn’t write?
My all-time favourite book that I wish I had written is The Twits by the legendary Roald Dahl. I remember reading it when I was a young lad (a long time ago!) and then revisiting it many times as a teacher. It’s just a fantastic story and I still laugh my socks off now when I read it, even though I’ve read it loads and know the story inside out.
When did you start writing? Do you go to anything like the Writers’ Hut?
I have always loved to write and make up stories. My parents always encouraged me to read from a young age and I firmly believe that readers become writers, so I have a lot to thank Mum and Dad for. During my school visits, I show the children a book I made in 1987, age 10. It’s only got twelve pages, but that was my first book. My class teacher bound it together and I did the illustrations, even though art isn’t my strong point!
When I was at school, I don’t recall anything quite like the Writers’ Hut. I tended to make up stories at home in my own time. I think writing is like anything in life, the more you work at it, the better you get. I do write with children during my school visits. The pupils pull apart my writing and create their own versions. The children’s enthusiasm and energy levels blow me away and often inspire me to go home and write.
Do you have a journal?
I don’t have a journal, but I use a little notepad, scraps of paper and sticky notes to store plans and jotted ideas. I even use my phone to keep ideas when a moment of creativity pops up unexpectedly! I once woke up during the early hours with an idea for an Impossible Tale, so I grabbed my phone, typed it in and then drifted off back to sleep. I was terrified I would forget it, but didn’t want to leave my cosy, warm bed to get a piece of paper. A perfect solution!
Who is your greatest critic?
I think I am my fiercest critic. Ultimately, I want the stories to be the best they can and that means I constantly push myself as a writer. I have lots of other people who read the stories during the writing process, plus an editor too. All of these individuals are honest and provide constructive criticism to help me improve the stories. It’s important to listen to feedback if you want to improve as a writer. The praise is lovely and makes me smile, but the critical feedback is crucial.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
No, I haven’t created a character with a specific person in mind. Some of the characters in the stories might have traits and qualities based on real-life individuals. I often see something in someone and think it would suit a particular character, but I exaggerate and twist the characteristic to make it stand out and fit the person in the story.
Thanks so much Dan!