Anna McKerrow works on arts projects for the reading charity Book Trust, which is where she became interested in Young Adult fiction. (It wasn’t around when she was 15; she went straight from Judy Blume to Jackie Collins). She has also published four volumes of poetry and taught creative writing in adult education for 7 years. She also provides school workshop and book event consultancy to writers and publishers.Anna sounds pretty fascinating and very experienced in writing, let's see what she answered to my odd questions.
Anna is a Pagan, reads the tarot, is a Reiki practitioner, and is a little bit obsessed with stone circles. She believes passionately, like Alan Moore, that creative activities such as writing are a kind of magic in themselves.
When did you start writing?
As a young child. My first story at about 5 or 6 was a plagiarised story about a giant that “turned purple with rage”, I remember my teacher asking me, Anna, did you really think of that on your own? And like a true writer, I lied and said yes. As an adult I realise that borrowing ideas from other people is essential as a writer, and in fact showed that I was taking in and thinking about what I read. I stand by my theft.
What 3 things (not including paper, computer, pens) would you like to facilitate a good days writing?
Coffee, pastries, peace and quiet / being left alone.
Do you write to a schedule, eg every day or three times a week, set times, etc or do you write as and when the mood strikes?
At the moment I write on Thursdays and Fridays while my son is at school; in practice, often life stuff gets in the way and I don’t do two full days. If you’re at home apparently sitting about, it’s easy to get asked to run errands. Plus I don’t write nonstop for all that time. There’s a fair amount of staring at the wall, trying to work out a knot in the plot or a motivation, like why the hell would a person do what I’ve said they do, or how do I get this person from this point to the next point and how does all that fit together. With a trilogy (which Crow Moon is the first and Red Witch is the second of) there’s lots of this kind of organisational thinking. Plotting-wise I’m pretty basic and draw it out in a felt tip diagram then make incomprehensible notes on top of it as I go along. Hence a lot of staring at the wall.
Is writing your main source of income, I read lots of articles saying writers make no money, and my readers asked this question a lot! Could you survive on book writing alone?
It’s my secondary source of income. I am, unlike many writers, extremely lucky to get paid at all, but it’s definitely not enough to live on. I work part time at a reading charity 3 days a week which is nice because it means I’m around children’s books all the time and keeping up to date with all the new writers and books.
What are your favourite biscuits?
Clearly, this is an important question. Chocolate biscuits, obviously. I don’t buy them because then I’d eat them. But you can’t go wrong with a Viscount or an Orange Club. ooh posh individually wrapped biscuits, I'll pop round later!
Where do you do most of your writing?
Sitting at the dining table or on my bed with my laptop, but that’s a bad posture position so at the table is better and feels more workmanlike. Then I write in my journal at night in longhand. I like to write at the kitchen table as it's closer to the biscuits
What book are you reading at the moment?
Get Into Trouble by Kelly Link, a new collection of her short stories. She’s an awesome American writer whose stories fall between horror, gothic, humour and literary fiction. My TBR pile like anyone bookish is massive. Next I have Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Overture to read, which is the prequel to his Sandman graphic novel.
If you could genetically cross and animal with a fruit or vegetable what would you choose and why? I'm currently keen on a turnip elephant, though I suspect it would be hard to get into a saucepan with that trunk waving about.
I want to say a cucumber snake, which is in my mind because my friend told me that cats have a primal aversion instinct for snakes, and if you leave a cucumber near to them they go crazy. I keep meaning to do it with my cat. And film it for Facebook, obvs. obviously
If reading and writing were banned on pain of death, what would you do instead?
Protest the totalitarian regime that had banned it? Draw an acerbic political cartoon with no words and poster it all over the neighbourhood, bemoaning the lack of linguistic expression. That’s what I like to think I would do. Also perhaps I’d spend more time playing music. Perhaps I’d take up revolutionary pottery and make subversive nudes. I adore all of these ideas!
If you could bring a dead person back from the dead for one day to have tea and a natter with them, who would you choose and why?
Lets say Janis Joplin. She had a fascinating life at the heart of the San Francisco flower power scene, was a crazily talented woman, and a bit of a sad soul I think. Janis would be cool.
Thank you to Anna for taking part. She has a book currently available and a new one published 10th March. So if you are quick you'll have chance to read one before the other comes out.
Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn't want to follow in his mum's witchy footsteps.
Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea...
But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?
Wickedness and passion combine in this coming-of-age adventure.
RED WITCH: Out March 10th 2016
Seventeen, heartbroken, powerful; Melz has run away from home, run away from the safety of the Greenworld. In the cities of the Redworld, Melz discovers she's special, desired. And not just for her magical talents. When Melz meets the young but influential Bran, their attraction is instant and electric. In the Redworld, with Bran by her side, unrestrained by the customs of her former life, Melz knows she can reach her true potential. But the world Bran wants to give Melz is ravaged by war and violence. Oil is running out, and people will do anything to gain control of the remaining resources. Melz may be more powerful than ever, but even great power can be a curse when used against you.