Malorie Blackman, the highly esteemed author, has written a vast range of novels and scripts for a variety of ages. Well known for her prize-winning ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series, you would suppose her occupation has always been writing, however after initially wanting to become an English teacher in secondary school she changed course and pursued a career in computing. After a number of years in this field Blackman decided to take a course in acting which in a roundabout way prompted the beginning of her writing career. I recently had the opportunity to interview her; I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did.
Which, out of the books you have written, is your favourite?
Noughts and Crosses is my favourite out of the books I’ve written so far because it was the hardest, the most personal and the most self-revealing book I’ve written to date.
What made you take an acting course after a career in computing?
A few reasons really – to blast me out out of my comfort zone, to get me doing something completely different to computing, to do something creative and challenging. I only did it for a year before deciding that acting wasn’t for me, but it made me realise that I was good at coming up with scenarios and story lines. So the next course I tried after that was a writing course.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t have just one favourite of anything because I think it’s too limiting. But there are certain authors whose books I will always try to read like Melvin Burgess, Patrick Ness, Catherine Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah and the list goes on.
Do you prefer writing books or scripts?
I do love writing both but if I had to pick just one I think it would probably be books.
Do you base your characters on people you know or are they completely fictitious?
I never base my characters on people I know. That way lies a lawsuit! They are totally fictitious. I write biographies for all my major characters before I start writing each novel and once I feel I really know my characters then I get to work on writing the story.
In the Noughts and Crosses series you focus on racism. What made you decide to write about this theme?
A number of factors including events from my own childhood, Stephen Lawrence’s death, conversations with friends and also some incidents that happened to me as an adult.
How do you come up with titles for your books?
With great difficulty… I suck at titles!
What are you reading at the moment?
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.
What is the hardest thing about writing a novel?
Sitting down every day and getting on with it. Writing requires a great deal of discipline. And reworking the story once the first draft is finished, I find particularly challenging because I always want to start the next one but I can’t until the current one has been thoroughly reworked until I really do feel I can’t do any more to it, at least not without input from others like my editor.
What has been your proudest moment?
Professionally, I think it was when I won the Red House Children’s Book Award for Noughts and Crosses. It was an unexpected delight.
If you had to convince the students at CCHS to read your books, what would you say?
Give them a try. You might like them! I’ve written sixty books covering most genres so there should be something in there for almost every taste.
Malorie Blackman is a truly inspirational woman. I found it fascinating that she writes biographies of her characters before beginning a book. They consist of roughly three to four pages of chronological detail of each character’s life; consequently allowing her to understand and know each one before she starts to write about them. On her website Malorie provides aspiring authors with tips to improve their writing. My particular favourite is the importance of reading; Blackman emphasises that if you do not read then you will not be able to write. She is a passionate believer in reading widely and not limiting yourself to a single genre or author. It is by exploring different types of books that one can create their own individual writing style, also developing interests, simultaneously finding a subject that is important to you. Malorie encourages writers not to be “fake” in their writing, to only write about something which they are passionate about otherwise it will show through and will appear empty and meaningless.
I am extremely grateful for Malorie granting me this interview and if you have not yet read any of her books I sincerely encourage you to do so! Although the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series may be her most famous, as she said herself she has written over sixty books therefore if these particular ones are not for you (which they should be because they are brilliant!) then she has plenty more to choose from!