Vivian began writing books for children after a career as an actor, playwright, and storyteller. Her first books for children were published in 1990, and she has since written over 250 books including board books for babies, plays for new readers, non-fiction, contemporary fairy tales for fluent readers and novels for teenagers. She is an editorial consultant, reviewer and anthologist, continues to write plays, and is a part-time tutor in the illustration department at Edinburgh College of Art. Vivian is amongst the most borrowed authors in UK libraries - her books were borrowed well over half a million times last year.
Q. What books did you read when you were a child?
A. I loved any kind of folk tales or fairy tales, especially Hans Christian Anderson’s stories. Also books by John Masefield, and Alison Uttley.
Q. If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A. Erm ... difficult. Maybe the fairy godmother in Cinderella? Or Toad. (The Wind in the Willows)
Q. What is the best thing about reading?
A. Reading is my most favourite thing ever. It pushes out the walls of my world, and sends me to places I’ve never been, and tells me things I never knew ...
Q. What is your all time favourite book?
A. I shall wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett.
Q. Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A. Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk!!!!!
Talk about anything and everything; ask questions, explain things (it’s quite ok not to know all the answers), discuss what’s going on around you, make up silly stories about the ducks in the park or the people on the bench, sing songs, find a favourite word (mine is CLOCK. I like the way it sounds like ticking - CLOCK CLOCK, CLOCK CLOCK ... )
Q. How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A. I think they encouraged my communication skills rather than my writing skills.They talked to me, and read to me, and so did my grandparents. Friday was the highlight of our week; that was when my father came back from the library with a heap of books for me and my brothers. When I was older my father was appointed headmaster of a boarding school, and I could wander in and out of the school library. Nobody ever checked what I read, either. I was allowed to read anything I fancied, and I read some extremely weird books (Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs!) as a result - but I was blissfully happy. I didn’t write much then, but I’m certain I was absorbing an enormous amount that came in useful later when I did begin writing.
Q. How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A. Dorothy (age 7) and I have been reading Clarice Bean, and enjoying it hugely. Nat (age 8) and I have been reading After, by Morris Gleitzman. It’s a wonderful and extraordinary book; no punches are pulled, and I think Nat really likes that. He’s not keen on fantasy and what he calls fluffy stories. Jack is 11, so he chooses his own books; he’s been reading a lot of the Wimpy Kid books, but he also like action and adventure. We sometimes read a chapter each, and I often let them read one more chapter after I’ve said goodnight. (I have to have a secret catch-up later!)
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