Sarah Lean grew up in Wells, Somerset but now lives in Dorset with her husband, son and dog Harry. She has worked as a page-planner for a newspaper, a stencil-maker and a gardener, amongst various other things. She gained a first class English degree and became a primary school teacher before returning to complete an MA in Creative and Critical Writing with University of Winchester. Her debut novel A Dog called Homeless is just published.
Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: I read The Famous Five, The Faraway Tree, and Narnia stories. Actually I read any book in our house – books on how the brain works (my brother’s), the dictionary (my brother’s idea) - but mostly Andersen’s fairytales, because I was convinced being a princess was a career choice and wanted to know what I’d have to do.
Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: Imagining and feeling what it is like to be someone else. I think stories essentially mimic what it is like to be human with the entire range of emotions and actions of which we are capable.
Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: There are so many! If there was a fire in our house and I could only take one thing it would be an album of photos of my son taken those first two years. The pictures remind me of hundreds of stories of our lives. But if I had to choose … probably Heaven Eyes by David Almond because it elicited the greatest emotional response from me by any book, ever.
Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: Speak face to face, really listen and pay attention when they are talking. There’s so much more going on than just words.
Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: My mother typed my stories as I dictated them. She was always amazed at anything I wrote or made. It made me think being creative was the most fabulous thing I would ever do. My dad travelled a lot and told stories about people he met from all over the world. He described ‘characters’ by their mannerisms, what they wore, what they said, and he could hold a captive audience.
Q: How do you encourage your children to read?
A: Every week I took my son to the library. Every night we had a story. Favourites came home time and time again. We scanned every detail of the pictures and made up our own voices. We loved rhymes and repetitions. Hopefully sharing a book and your own love of reading instils itself naturally but it does seem to get trickier when they start to read by themselves. Now I buy books for my teenage son but more often he is interested in what his peers are reading. I was delighted to find he’d started reading The Hunger Games by himself.
Read more author interviews here.