SF Said's new book Phoenix is published in August by David Fickling Books. Like his Varjak Paw novels, it is illustrated by Dave McKean.
Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: Lots! The Cat In The Hat was an early favourite, as was Watership Down. But I've always loved stories about space, and I read all the Star Trek and Star Wars books I could find. I remember I used to judge bookshops on how good their Star Trek selection was!
Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: Maybe Bagheera, the black panther in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books?
Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: Two things. It can take you to other worlds; and it can make you feel that you're not alone. Both of these things are totally magical.
Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: It's impossible to pick just one. But if I could write anything half as good as Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed – which I think might be the best science fiction novel ever – I would die happy!
Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: I think reading books is probably the biggest thing. And of course encouraging children to make up their own stories, and then listening & taking them seriously when they do so.
Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: Very big! My mother particularly always encouraged me to read and write and make up stories, as she loved books herself, so I started doing those things very young as a result. I think that kind of early grounding never really leaves you.
Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I don't have children or grandchildren, but I do very much enjoy visiting schools and talking to children about reading and books. It's always inspiring to see how much enthusiasm there is for stories out there. I think stories are very much the key: if you can find a story that a child loves, then the reading will pretty much take care of itself.