Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caroline Lawrence Author Interview Nov 2001

[For the first unit in the literacy file of the LCP Literacy Schemes of Work - 'Stories with Historical Settings' - based around the Roman Mysteries series.]

Caroline & friend at Ostia in 2000
An interview with Caroline Lawrence
by students from class 4F at Charlton Kings Junior School following her visit in November 2001

Caroline is writing a series of adventure stories set in Ancient Rome. Each of these Roman Mysteries involves four friends who set out to solve a whodunit. The books are original and very easy to read, with pacy plots we have found very exciting. We invited Caroline to our school because we had used her books to learn about Ancient Rome.

Q: Why did you decide to write about Roman Ostia?

A: I first went to Ostia on a school trip when I was 16 and I have always remembered it. When I decided to write a book for children I chose to set it in Ancient Rome. The port of Ostia seemed ideal because the characters could arrive from and sail to different places, like Nubia the African girl who reaches Ostia on a slave ship.

Q: Your characters are very realistic. Do you get your ideas from people you know or are you inspired by something else?

A: I grew up reading Nancy Drew mystery stories. I wanted a heroine who was really clever and brave, just like Nancy, but I knew if she was 17 years old in Roman times she would already be married with children because they married so young. So I decided to make Flavia, my heroine, ten years old. Sometimes, though, I make up characters, like Lupus the homeless beggar boy who is mysteriously mute. But I have to admit, when he loses his temper and storms off he is a lot like me!

Q: There are many dogs in The Thieves of Ostia. Why is that?

A: Although I had a pet dog, I used to have nightmares about dogs when I was quite young. Dogs can be scary. I had the idea for The Thieves of Ostia when I heard a dog barking in the night and I wondered who might be creeping about. That got me thinking about my story. 

Q: You have some great mysteries in your books, like when Bobas the dog has his head chopped off. What inspired you to write them?

A: I had in my head the image of Cerberus the three-headed dog from Greek mythology, and I wanted to weave that story into my story. 

Q: One of the most gripping cliffhangers in your book is when Flavia is hanging from a tree with wild dogs under her feet. How do you plan and write such exciting cliffhangers?

A: I write a chapter outline first and I always try to end with a surprise. Then, if you are reading my book in the bathtub, you find the water has gone cold before you put it down!

Q: You have written two books already. How long did they take you to write and get published? Have you any plans for more books?

A: I seem to be getting quicker at writing my books. My first book The Thieves of Ostia took two years to write and get published, but The Secrets of Vesuvius only took one year. I have written books three and four and am busy on book five at the moment. I have also planned the sixth book which will be called The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina.

Q: Do you hope your books will be turned into films?

A: Oh yes! They'd have to be animated films, like Toy Story, because you couldn't use real actors. You see, each story takes place a month apart so the child actors would grow up too fast! It would be impossible to make six films in six months. The films would probably have to be PG certificate because some parts of my stories are quite scary. But I wouldn't want them to be gory. 

Q: You write lots of interesting stories. How do you think of them all? Did you start writing at school?

A: No! I didn't write at school but I did read. I still read lots of books and watch television and good films. I get my ideas from them. One of my favourite authors is Gerald Durrell and I also love The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. I think that without knowing it, you keep all the stories in you and one day, when you write, they all come out. 

Q: What is your biggest tip on writing?

A: I think my biggest tip would be to write for 10-15 minutes each day, as regularly as you clean your teeth!

Q: Where do you write your books and do you listen to music while you write?

A: No! I have to have complete quiet while I write but I do use music to inspire me. I have a piece of music for each of my characters. When I am gathering ideas I walk around London with my Walkman on, listening to music. Then I rush back to my desk which looks over the River Thames and write my ideas down before I forget them!

Caroline Lawrence was interviewed by children in 4F at Charlton Kings Junior School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. They have used the Roman Mysteries in their Literacy, History, and Drama lessons and would recommend them to all Junior-aged children who are keen to learn about Ancient Rome and like an exciting read.

[Seventeen years later, there are 17+ books in the Roman Mysteries series. These are perfect for children aged 9+, especially those studying Romans as a topic in Key Stage 2. They exist in hardback, paperback and Kindle. There are also audiobooks and DVDs of The Roman Mysteries TV series. Since this interview, Caroline has written the Roman Mysteries Scrolls for younger readers, the P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries, two re-tellings of Virgil for dyslexic teens and four-book series set in Roman Britain called The Roman Quests.]

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. It's funny reading this after 16+ books and a TV series...