19 December: Joanne Owen

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Day 19 features fantastic author Joanne Owen.

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Joanne was born in Pembrokeshire and studied at St John’s College, Cambridge. Following a career buying and marketing children’s books, Joanne now combines writing with working on Scoop magazine as Marketing Director and a content creator. Joanne has written fantastical, historical, folklore-infused adventures and she has a new iscoop-coverillustrated series for 6+ year olds in 2017. Joanne is also working on a YA novel inspired by Caribbean folklore and history, and has written a football-themed short story for the NLT’s Premier League Reading Stars scheme.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! I LOVE surprises so I don’t actually have a list. Having said that, I’d be delighted if I were gifted the surprise of a new pair of scarlet shoes to add to my collection. Oh, and Arsenal winning the league this season would also be a pretty great present (and I wouldn’t mind waiting until May to receive it!).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? My husband and I have a tradition of creating a kind of indoor forest in our flat! We collect fallen branches to put up in our hall and living room, and decorate them with twinkling lights and dozens of feathery birds. I especially love our toucan, which adds a tropical touch to our winter wonderland.

(This sounds amazing!)

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? Having spent all my childhood Christmases in Wales, Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales is always a fine gem to return to. “Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills”; such intense, evocative writing.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Nothing beats tucking into Christmas dinner with my family, but I reckon the actor and adventurer Brian Blessed would make a great wildcard dinner companion! He’d have plenty of exuberant after dinner tales to tell in his big, booming voice, plus he bears more than a passing resemblance to Father Christmas himself!

Your books often have wonderful historical settings. If you could travel back in time to celebrate Christmas in any time period when would you choose and why? I imagine that Christmas in Prague in the late nineteenth century (which is when my first novel, Puppet Master, is set) would have had a marvellous atmosphere – snow softly tumbling onto the city’s spires, people bustling around Old Town Square, the Vltava River sparkling with ice beneath the stately Charles Bridge. As it happens, the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is based on the real-life Bohemian duke, Wenceslaus I, who lived way back in the 900’s and became known (and sainted) for his generosity to the poor. But actually, I think I’d most like to travel back to Pembrokeshire in the 1980’s, when I enjoyed the most amazing family Christmases.

In your author workshops, you talk about every object being able to tell a story. If you could write a story about one Christmas object what would it be and why? How about a Christmas cracker that opens a gateway to another world when it bangs? Or a sprig of mistletoe that enchants (or curses…) those who kiss beneath it? Or an advent calendar whose doors contain riddles that have to be solved in order to avert some kind of Christmas calamity…?  Sorry – couldn’t stop at one!

(Brilliant ideas – you’ll have to write one!)

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Secondary Academy; why do you write children’s books instead of for adults? I think younger readers are generally much more curious and open-minded than most grown-ups, and have a greater sense of wonder about the world, all of which means that writing for children is incredibly exhilarating, satisfying and full of freedom. I love writing – and reading – about inquisitive young characters who are on exciting paths of discovery, unearthing and experiencing things for the first time as they travel their story trails. I also think that the books you love as a child stay with you forever; they become part of who you are and how you see the world, which makes writing for children a very special thing indeed.

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies, if I must choose only one!

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Fireplace

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve

Thank you for taking part in our festive Q & A and have a Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Joanne on Facebook JoanneOwenBooks and Twitter @JoanneOwen

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