Ask Don Contest: Part Three (Last Part)

Here are the three prize-winning questions I chose from the top ten submissions of interview questions by students at Harmony School of Science. The students who submitted these questions recieved a poster and book of their choice as a prize. Note again: The students pictured below are not the contest winners, although they are all winnners in my opinion!

Do you use events from your life in your books?

All of my stories are shaped in some way by the events in my life. The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon, a book about living with learning difficulties, was inspired by my struggle with dyslexia as a child. Superhero, a picture book about being a real hero, was inspired by my dad, who always came to my rescue—even after a bad dream. Shelby the Cat, a picture book about bullying, was inspired by the bullying and peer pressure that happened to me as a child. Basically, every author’s writing is shaped by life experiences.


Do you use a mental movie or a timeline when you write your stories?

This is an excellent question. I had to spend a little time thinking about it. All of my stories start out as a timeline, where I lay out the basic storyline.  Then as I work on writing the book, I switch to using a mental movie.  As the scenes and dialog play out in my mind, I write them down as though I were an outside observer.  Using the mental movie method of writing sometimes shows me where to change the story, often because the characters take on a life of their own.  One very simple example is when I had planned early on in the timeline of The Knighting of Sir Kaye that Charles Atwood—a village boy—would name an injured wolf Ollie. (That was the name of my dog when I was little, and I really wanted to put it in the story. Ollie was a good dog.)  But when I started writing the scene where Charles named the wolf, I realized that Charles would NEVER name a wolf Ollie.  So I had to find a different name, one that I knew Charles would like.


I want to be an author when I grow up but I want to know how it is like in the book business. What do you usually do, and can you share any helpful information?

The book business today is very competitive and it can be very difficult to earn a living as an author. You may need to have another job in addition to being a writer, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to do with your life. Working at a different job along with being a writer is not a bad idea at all. It can give you great inspiration for things to write about.

If you really want to be an author, then by all means follow your passion. Enjoy the process, write for fun, keep working on improving your writing and storytelling skills and one day you may have a best-seller or an award-winning article. But even if your writing doesn’t rise to that level, it can still be fun and rewarding. I currently support my writing by doing other kinds of work but over time, as I get better established, then I plan on just working on writing.

Most importantly, if you want to be a writer, then WRITE. Your whole life long, make time for writing, every week or every day, no matter how busy you are with other things.

I had a great visit with the students at the Harmony School of Science – one of my very favorite schools to visit. Many thanks to the students, librarian, teachers, principal and staff at Harmony School for always making my visits so enjoyable. I look forward to working with you all again!

book display and teachers