I haven't always wanted to be a writer. At age 3 I planned to be a taxi driver, window cleaner and giraffe. Not very realistic. Common ground might exist between window cleaning and giraffery but I'd have no time to drive my taxi.
Two decades later, books had seized my imagination and I got a job in publishing, editing what other people had written. Not writing my own books. For that you need ideas and I didn't think I had any.
Except that I had. Ever since reading Dante's
Inferno at university, it bothered me that for this fabulous story about a man descending into the Greek underworld, encountering terrifying monsters and demons, no one had written a children's version. Why not?
Ignore appearances. I may look like a middle-aged woman with wild hair but inside I'm 12 years old, with favourite reads drawing on classical mythology, magic and legends: C S Lewis's
Chronicles of Narnia, T H White's
Sword in theStone, J K Rowling's
Harry Potter. If I couldn't find a children's version of Dante, I decided, I'd have to write one myself.
Ante's Inferno was born. Dante the poet became 12 year-old Ante (Antonia) who, fleeing her worst enemy, causes an accident which plunges them both on a dark journey through the classical underworld, down to the heart of hell.
If writing is hard, getting published is even harder. I found widespread underestimation of young people by agents and publishers. Dante - for
children? was the most common reaction. In the end I self-published
Ante's Inferno with Matador in 2012. When it won the Children's People's Book Prize and a Silver Wishing Shelf Award, I felt thrilled and vindicated; both these awards are decided by readers - the very readership I'd been told would find the book 'too difficult'.
Encouraged, I got on with my next book and have just brought out
The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst, inspired, this time, by the legend of Doctor Faustus. When 13 year-old Henry Fowst makes a pact with a demon, he thinks he's found the perfect solution to his problems; unfortunately, calling up Mephistopheles lands him in worse trouble than he ever bargained for...
I hate pigeonholes! Figurative ones, that is, I've nothing against pigeons. It's the book trade's insistence that childhood stops at age 12 that gets me. From 12+ you become a Young Adult, ready for violent depictions of war, massacre, torture, incarceration, rape... These books are often brilliantly written and my sons devour them - at age 25 and 28. My books are aimed at 9 - 14 years or more, a category that doesn't exist. Grr.
I LOVE school visits. I give an illustrated talk on the writing process, plus themes behind my stories - Dante, Greek mythology, World War 1, Elizabethan magic and Faustian pacts. Believe me, none of this is 'too difficult' for children and I'm talking all abilities here. They are fascinated by subjects not normally offered them.
My books are available at bookshops, online - all the usual ways. More info about me and my writing here http://www.griseldaheppel.com/