Knowledge and skills
- Reading widely
- Discussing books
- Building on others' ideas
Author Anne Faundez has worked with many famous names in children’s literature. She talks to us about her love of books and where it came from.
I have always enjoyed reading. I was born in Egypt and as a child, I moved a great deal from one country to another. When landscapes change, schools change and classmates change, it’s good to hang on to books as a constant in your life.
Books I have loved
The books that followed me throughout my childhood were Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Black Beauty gave me a love of horses, which I’ve never outgrown, and also it taught me respect for all living creatures. As for The Secret Garden, I used to sit high up in a shady apricot tree on really scorching days, when even cicadas were too hot to sing, and be enthralled by the story of the damp, neglected garden in what seemed to me a cold and faraway country. I never dreamed I would one day live there! I loved the characters and felt so sorry for Mary at the beginning of the book. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were also hot favourites, and I loved the carefree adventures… and no adult supervision!
It’s hard to say who my favourite authors are really, since I like books for different reasons – sometimes it’s because of the characters, sometimes because of the plot. I love John le Carré – it seems to me that he always combines really interesting and complex characters with a dazzling plot. Other favourites include Chimamanda Adichie (especially Half of a Yellow Sun), Pat Barker (Regeneration trilogy), Arundhati Roy (God of Small Things) and Patrick White (Voss, Tree of Man). Mind you, I also love a good crime thriller – Ian Rankin’s Rebus books or Henning Mankell’s Wallander series in translation. If my house was burning and I could only take one book, I’d just take the one that happened to be closest to the escape exit.
A house full of books
My two children’s firm favourites were Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes and David McKee, followed by Doctor Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, St Exupéry’s Little Prince and Oscar Wilde’s fairy stories. As my children grew up their tastes began to differ – my son turned to fantasy, my daughter to realism. My daughter loved Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch series and everything by Anne Fine and Jacqueline Wilson, while CS Lewis’ Narnia series and stories by Joan Aiken were among my son’s favourites.
The writing process
I work at home in a very messy room filled with books, just off the kitchen, on a laptop perched on a round table. The table’s not ideal as I tend to forget that, because of its circular shape, there’s nowhere to place books on either side of the computer. So I am forever dropping books, papers and pens and picking them off the floor!
I love stories that explain why the world and its creatures are the way they are. What I like best about writing is to see a character developing under my very nose. I write a first draft and then go back to it, pretending I’m reading it for the first time. First, I make sure that the plot makes sense and moves sequentially, then I check whether the characters are coherent. After that, I cut as much as I can, especially too much description, keeping just the bare bones of the story.
About the platypus
I don’t feel sorry for Platypus at all. I think he had a very lucky break. If he hadn’t fallen into the water, he would have remained a vain and selfish creature, with no friends. As it is, he was made to realise what’s important in life – having good friends with whom to share a laugh, not being vain and self obsessed. I’d like to get to know Kookaburra better, then I might persuade her to sing for me. There’s no sound in the world like the kookaburra’s call.
I’m fascinated by folk and fairy tales, how they are fashioned by the landscape and animals indigenous to a particular culture and yet remain universal in theme. I’m particularly drawn to creation tales, which humans seem to need to explain the origins of the world. So, my next story will most likely be a folk story or creation tale.
Other books by Anne Faundez:
Tamarind Press: The day the rains fell; QED: Tiddalik the Frog, Imaginary Creatures, A cloak for swallow, Animals in Danger, Little Red Riding Hood, Sea Creatures, Teddy’s birthday, When I’m a grown up.