Alex Woolf is a published author of over eighty books, both fiction and non-fiction, mostly for young adults. His fiction writing credits include a time-warping science fiction trilogy, Chronosphere, and Aldo Moon and the Case of the Ghost at Gravewood Hall, about a teenage Victorian ghost-hunter, described by best-selling crime writer Peter James as ‘a real delight, witty, ghostly and at times deliciously ghastly.’ His novel Soul Shadows, about shadows that come to life, has been shortlisted for the 2014 RED Book Award. Alex is also a regular author for Fiction Express, online publishers of interactive stories for schools.
Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: I read a great deal of science fiction and fantasy, including C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, and absolutely anything by John Wyndham.
Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: I would have liked to be John Carter from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, because he had simply amazing adventures.
Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: You can lose yourself in a world that’s totally your own, filled with scenes and populated by characters that only you can see. It’s like having your own personal cinema.
Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: As a child it was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As a grown-up, it is The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: Have conversations with them. The more a parent involves children in everyday discussions, the better. It’s a good idea to ask children for their opinions on things, to get them thinking about what they want and why. After reading a book to a child, ask them what they thought of it. What were their favourite parts or characters and why. This helps their communication skills, and their ability to argue a case.
Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: I don’t think my parents did very much directly. As far as I can remember, I was never asked to write a story as a child. But both my parents are good storytellers. I used to love listening to them tell me about their childhoods in South Africa, and I’m sure my enjoyment of narrative stems partly from that. My father is also a very good writer. Although he writes mainly about subjects like economics and accountancy, his articles are always a model of clarity and concision. He certainly gave me an appreciation for words and how to use them effectively.
Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I often ask my children about what they are reading. I ask them to describe the plot and the characters. If they’re not reading anything, we look together at the bookshelves to see what we can find that might interest them. If we can’t find anything, we might make a trip to our local public library. That’s always a delight and a pleasure. I enjoy reading them anything that I also find entertaining. Recently, that has included books by Julia Donaldson and Anthony Horowitz.
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