A. L. Kennedy was born in Dundee and now lives in North Essex, having previously lived in Glasgow. As well as adult fiction and non-fiction, she has written three children’s books, including two titles about Uncle Shawn and Badger Bill, an unusual pair who have brilliantly bonkers adventures. She also writes for stage, screen, TV and radio and performs one-woman shows and stand-up comedy.
1. Who were your literary heroes and influences as you were growing up?
I was taught to read very early and was grabbing any book I could by the time I was four. I like ee cummings - he makes sense to a child. Very fond of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. They may have encouraged me to write using initials.
2. How did you come to invent the characters of Uncle Shawn and Bill?
I’m not sure where they came from. I was writing for my godchildren and the wildness and the worry that Shawn and Bill represent seem to have sprung to mind very easily. They were certainly the first characters to arrive and were pretty much fully formed. I used to make up characters as I read to them and Shawn and Bill appeared during one evening.
3. What are the best things about writing for children?
Too many to say - there’s a feeling of an entirely benevolent conversation taking place while you write, it’s a constant reminder of how much fun stories are and how important they are in your life as a defence and an escape and a source of joy and a rehearsal for who you will be and what you will do, the readings are vastly more fun than adult readings and the enthusiasm seems more innocent.
4. What is on your to read’ pile at the moment?
That pile is currently three piles and much of it is research so I try not to think about it - and there are books I haven’t read yet scattered in the shelves, too, accusing…
5. What was the last book you read that you hugely enjoyed?
I am currently reading all the Graham Greene books that I have missed and that is an absolute joy. You can just bask in his descriptions as you go along.
6. Do you have a message for your readers young and old in Suffolk Libraries?
Read what you like, enjoy it, ask people you like what they’re reading. A space and a time for reading is never a luxury. Books are recyclable and come from renewable forests, they’re an ecological entertainment and you can pass them on when you’re done with them.
7. You are appearing at Waveney Kids’ Book Festival on 19 October. Can you give us a small taster of what to expect?
I never quite know myself what to expect, but I will be aiming for fun and joining in and questions and answers - all about Bill and Shawn.