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Q&A with £1 book author, Sue Bentley

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By Colman Getty

Sue Bentley has been obsessed by books and reading since she was a little girl. A career in fiction seemed on the cards…

Sue Bentley

When you were little did you always want to be an author or something else?

I’ve always adored books and reading. One of my earliest memories is of sitting curled up reading animal stories. My sisters (I have four) would tease me about ‘always having my head in a book’. Mum would say ‘Will you put that book down and go and do something useful – like tidy your room!’ No one, least of all me, had the slightest idea that I’d grow up to be a writer. At school I was often told off for daydreaming; now I realise that I was storing up ideas for later. Daydreaming rules, OK!

I was a tomboy sort of girl and didn’t really play with dolls, like my sisters did. When not reading, I was climbing trees, going fishing in the park with the lads who lived opposite or playing tracking round the local streets. I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up, but in fact went straight from school into the local library. Books and reading somehow just became my life.

How or when did you start writing?

I always got good marks for writing stories at school and toyed with the idea of becoming a writer one day. But I didn’t actually get serious about this until my own children started school. My first book was hand-written on pads of lined paper. It was a long historical novel, which has never been published – probably because it’s rubbish! But I think you need to write this first book, to prove to yourself that you can do it. You need staying power and stamina to be a writer. Later, I bought a computer and taught myself to type, read lots of books about the craft of writing and just kept get on going. It took me quite a few years to get published. But when I held my first book in my hand I jumped all round the house shouting with joy.

At school I was often told off for daydreaming

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from reading, talking to people, hearing scraps of conversation on the bus, watching TV, etc. The best ones often just pop into my head, usually when I’m washing-up or out walking or staring out of the window (yes, I still do this, but a teacher can’t tell me off now!). Ideas are easy – it’s working them up into stories that take so much time and effort.

How did you think of your character(s)?

My characters usually start life as a package. I decide that I’d like to write about a particular type of person. Maybe someone who’s shy, or being bullied, or who really wants something but can’t have it. I then work out what they look like, where they live, what they’re interested in, what they like and dislike. Once I have a name the character becomes alive for me. Names are very important and I spend a lot of time choosing the right one. Magazines are very helpful here!

Are any of your books based on real life experience?

Some of my life experience goes into my books. I’ve always liked terrible jokes and the characters in my books tell these too – it’s usually the dads. I suppose every character has something of me and my memories in them – especially the awkward or naughty ones! I don’t use great slabs of my own experience – just a touch here and there. Crafting a book’s a bit like making a cake. You sprinkle in a few nutty details, plop in a juicy plot, sweeten it with some fun, and then spice it up with tension.

Who is your favourite character in your books? OR Which of the characters in your book(s) would you like to be?

My favourite character in any book is the one I’m writing about the time. Although I’m very fond indeed of Flame, the Magic Kitten. He’s brave, loyal, funny, a great friend – all traits I admire and aspire to in myself. I’m also very fond of my wonderful new character Storm, the Magic Puppy, who pops up in my £1 book. He’s more mischievous and even funnier than Flame, but he’s also brave and loyal. I love them both to bits.

Do you plan to write more stories in this series or introduce new characters?

There are more books to come in the Magic Kitten series and now there’s to be the brand new Magic Puppy series. I do plan to keep writing about wonderful magical animals. Who knows where this could lead?

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

My favourite book as a child was The Little Grey Men by BB (penname of Denys Watkins-Pitchford, a Northamptonshire writer and illustrator). It’s about the last gnomes left in England. Their names are Dodder, Sneezewort and Baldmoney and they live by the Folly Brook. In the sequel called Down The Bright Stream they all set off to look for their lost brother, Cloudberry. These books are so magical and evocative. I read them to my own children and I still absolutely love them. I think they helped to foster my sense of wonder and love for the natural world.

What would you do if you weren’t an author?

If I wasn’t an author, I might be an actress. I love going to the cinema and I was often accused of being too dramatic as a child. (My characters are often like this too!) I might have worked with wildlife or been a gardener. I might have made fabulous creations in chocolate and sold them – if I hadn’t eaten them myself. I might have been an explorer. Hang on; I am all these things – inside my books!

Where do you live?

I was born in Northampton and I still live here.

If it’s a unique building or location, please explain why you chose to live there.

My house is quite ordinary and in a built-up area, but it’s surrounded by my very own miniature wood and wildlife garden. About 25 years ago, after watching a programme on TV, my partner and I planted a hedge of native trees and bushes. This is now enormous and frames the garden, providing me with something beautiful to look out at as I write. Although our wildlife haven is only small we get up to 12 species of birds nesting each year. We have frogs and newts in the pond and hedgehogs hibernate by the back door. One year, we had some gorgeous waxwings from Scandinavia pop by for a snack of red berries.

What is your favourite sweet?

My favourite sweet is chocolate. Preferably organic dark chocolate with nuts. Yummy. I believe this is also good for you in small quantities. A fact I have to try out every day, just to see if it’s true.

Do you believe in magic?

I believe in magic. In the sense that life is the most wonderful magical adventure. Every one of us is a magical, unique person and if you expect magic to happen, chances are that it will.

Reviews

  1. Crystle
    on 24 October 2012

    your books are amasing.

    I love your books my favorite seres are magic kittin.You are the best author ever.

  2. naya
    on 11 October 2012

    magic kitten is amazing!!!

    i love a summer spell its the best book i ever read in my life ! i hate reading , the first page i reed i get bored except this book!

  3. Tim Major, Editor
    on 28 November 2011

    Contact details

    @Jacque. Thanks for your query. Sue Bentley’s books are actually published by Puffin Books rather than Scholastic. I’ve sent some contact details to your email address. I’m sure Sue will enjoy reading your daughter’s letter!

  4. Jacque
    on 25 November 2011

    Excellent

    My eight-year old daughter has recently discovered the Magic Puppy and Magic Kitten books. She requested that our library acquire both series that she might read them, and they did! As a result, she’d since decided that she wants to purchase these special books. She has written a very nice 2-page letter (complete with illustrations) to Sue Bentley, however we’ve been unable to find an address, or any other contact information. Can you please let us know how to reach Sue? It would really mean a lot to her young fan.

    Thank you so much, -jacque

  5. Gaby Michel
    on 7 February 2011

    Sue Bentley

    very good but needed more information on her life and her books.too much info on random things .

  6. Paula
    on 5 February 2011

    Sue Bentley

    Hi Mikaela

    We’ve got lots of information and chances to write books on our Kids Book Club site http://clubs.scholastic.co.uk

    Just select Kids club and search for ‘Sue Bentley’

    Have fun!

  7. Mikaela nelson
    on 3 February 2011

    Sue's books are asome!!!!!!!!!

    Will you write back please?!?

  8. Mikaela nelson
    on 3 February 2011

    I love sue's books

    hi I’m mikaela I’m 9 Years old and I love sue bentley’s books they tought me lots of stuff I read magic puppies all the time. there so cool you should read them.

  9. Kirstin McCreadie Assistant Editor
    on 8 September 2010

    RE: the first book i read

    Dear Courtney,

    You can find out about all the books Sue has written at www.puffin.co.uk

    Best wishes, Kirstin.

  10. courtney danley
    on 8 September 2010

    the first book i read

    the first book i read was magic puppy star of the show i love your books. do u write any more then magic animals?

  11. lauren ash
    on 4 February 2010

    how much i love magic pony

    hi sue i love your books magic pony i have read magic pony a new friend and magic pony a sparkle of hooves i have not got on to reading the other books yet but i will do thanks for reading my letter and your the best i love horses to bye from lauren

  12. grace
    on 3 January 2010

    Why i like Sue Bentley

    I think Sue is a really good athor and i have a lot of her books. i have magic kitten books and magic ponie but i would really would like magic puppy. I would like to ask Sue a questian how many books have you witten altogether.

    4out of 5

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