My name’s Leila Rasheed, I am 32 years old, and I’ve written three books for children: Chips, Beans and Limousines: the Fantastic Diary of Bathsheba Clarice de Trop (2008); Socks Shocks and Secrets: the Spectacular Second Diary of Bathsheba Clarice de Trop (2008), and Doughnuts, Dreams and Drama Queens: the Theatrical Third Diary of Bathsheba Clarice de Trop (forthcoming in June 2009). They’re funny books for girls aged 9 – 11, with a melodramatic heroine who dreams of being a Star, but gets brought down to earth with a bump, most of the time. When the first book starts, you think she’s a real show-off, but as you read on, you find out the truth behind all her boasting – she’s a very lonely girl, But although there are lots of sad bits in among the humour, there is a happy ending. You can read more at www.usborne.co.uk/bathsheba
What inspired you to write the books about Bathsheba Clarice de Trop?
I was inspired to write the first book after receiving a rejection from a publisher. As anyone who’s trying to get published knows, rejections can really make you lose confidence in yourself. I remember feeling so miserable and useless, and wishing I was the kind of person who always had total confidence in themselves. So I started writing a story in the bouncy, up-beat voice of someone who was really over-confident, and that voice became Chips, Beans and Limousines.
Describe yourself as a reader. What books or authors influenced and inspired you as a child? As an adult?
I’d say I read very widely. The genre I read least is probably adult fiction, simply for lack of time. I read a lot of children’s literature – recently I read Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth, and I’m now reading Chasing the Falconers (On the Run 1) – I love adventure books, though I see more and more influences from computer games in their descriptions of fights, structure of quests, etc. which I find ambiguous: on the one hand, computer games are an exciting and unavoidable part of children’s lives, on the other hand, writing should draw from reality, not virtual reality. I also read a lot of adult non-fiction: history (currently I’m reading a history of Italy since 1796, which is huge!), science, war and exploration books. I feed my non-fiction reading into my writing.
What's your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
My favourite part is being able to make up stories and write them down, all day, instead of working. My least favourite is the constant fear of failure and rejection, and of course the financial insecurity. An average children’s author may – if they’re lucky - earn around £5000 per book. If you figure that it takes a year to write and publish a book, that’s a pretty low income. You can write more than one book per year, but then you have no time for any other work, or indeed for your family, social life, etc. Last year I wrote two books to contract: an annual income of £10, 000 gross. It’s not much.
What do you like most about writing for children?
I like the fact that children respond to books in a way that adults can no longer. A child will get lost in a book, really lost, they will live inside that story as they read. A book you loved as a child stays with you forever. Adults have too many distractions, they don’t allow books to swallow them up in the same way. I think that when you write a book that a child loves, you are creating a new world for them.
Can you tell us what you were like as a child? Does that influence your characters? How?
I was always reading, and I always felt shy and excluded from groups, but I also had an adventurous streak, I loved to go exploring, and I was always making up exciting stories. Some of my characters – Bathsheba – aren’t at all like me, but I do think I always try to get that sense of adventure and yet also of being somehow an outsider, into my characters.
What advice would you give people who dream of being a published writer?
Buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and use it.
Read the advice at http://www.need2bpublished.blogspot.com/ and follow it.
Join http://www.writewords.org.uk/ and learn from the people on it. Keep submitting. Do not give up.
Be prepared to learn.
Can we expect more books by you in the future ?
I hope so! Doughnuts, Dreams and Drama Queens is out at the end of June 2009 – you can pre-order on Amazon.
Do you have a dream, something you’d love to achieve with your writing?
I want to become an established, prize-winning author, someone who has a whole shelf full of their books in Waterstone’s! But most of all, I want at least one child to pass by a second hand bookshop when they are an adult, see one of my books, and snatch it up excitedly, saying to her own children: “Wow, look, it’s by Leila Rasheed… I LOVED her books!”
*****THANK YOU LEILA!******