An #IBW2017 Q&A with Katherine Woodfine


Author Katherine Woodfine shares her current reads, favourite children's book and much more in this Independent Bookshop Week Q&A

What are you reading now?

I usually have a few books on the go - at the moment, on my bedside table, I have A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies, and an old favourite The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson. 

What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

My nephew has just turned three, so most recently I’ve put together a stack of lovely picture books for his birthday, including books by Chris Haughton, Nadia Shireen and Oliver Jeffers. 

What is your favourite children’s book?

There are so many children’s books that I love - it’s so difficult to choose a favourite! However one book that I always find myself coming back to is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

Do you have any writing rituals or habits?

I try to avoid writing rituals on the whole - I think it can be a bit dangerous to get into the idea that you can only write while wearing one particular ‘writing jumper’ or if you have exactly the right candle burning! 

Having said that, I do have a few habits. I am definitely a morning person, and that’s when I tend to do most of my writing. And I will admit that somehow writing always seems to go more smoothly when there’s a tasty snack to hand…

What advice would you offer aspiring writers/ illustrators?

First and foremost, read as much as you can. Read widely - you never know where an idea may come from - but also, get to know your own field. If you want to write children’s books, read as many as you can, read reviews, go to bookshops and libraries and see what’s on display. It really helps to know the landscape, what’s out there, and what other authors and illustrators are doing. 

Secondly, keep going even when it’s tough! Don’t get it right, get it written is something that I often tell myself. There are always moments when you’ll feel a project is terrible and want to throw it all in the bin. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You can always make it better later - but you have to get it down on paper first!

Can you describe the room that you write in?

I write in lots of different places - sometimes in cafes, sometimes in the British Library, sometimes at home. I live in a small flat in central London so there isn’t a lot of room for a workspace, but I’ve managed to squeeze a desk into the bedroom and I have a board where I can pin up lots of images that inspire me. 

Can you tell us about your book?

The Painted Dragon is the third book in the Sinclair’s Mysteries series, which is set in and around a glamorous Edwardian department store - it's  Mr Selfridge meets Nancy Drew! In this new story, our dauntless young detectives Sophie and Lil set out on the trail of a valuable painting that has been stolen from the store where they work - and they and their friends soon find themselves in danger… 

Katherine Woodfine was shortlisted for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award 2017 and is published by Egmont