Hello! Today I’m chatting to Beth Webb, author of Fleabag and the Ring’s End, an updated and newly illustrated MG book from her back catalogue. Beth is represented by Hannah Sheppard of DHH agency, and is published by March Hamilton Media
Welcome to Books and Wine Gums, Beth. Tell us a little about your work to date.
Like most authors, I’ve written two or three times more books than I’ve ever had published.
I’ve had 14 books published so far – some with small publishers and two with Macmillan’s Children’s Books (I was their 2006 lead author) – then back to tiny publishers again. My career has been a bit of a roller coaster ride!
I’ve also illustrated about 25 books for teens and adults with learning difficulties covering everything from health, legal and social issues to some titles that are just for fun. It’s really satisfying work. https://booksbeyondwords.co.uk
Where did your inspiration for Fleabag come from?
I was looking for a new story, when I went to visit a friend whose scruffy three-legged moggy tried to jump on my lap. My friend said, ‘Oh, don’t let him up, he’s thick with fleas – we’ve tried everything, nothing works.’ The cat’s owner is a fascinating character, so I started to craft the idea for Fleabag using his owner’s ‘voice’ (Yes, he does know – so does Fleabag!).
Which comes first to you – the storyline or the visuals?
I ‘see’ the story in my head in great detail as I write – so both really.
You’ve written for a wide age range – which age group is the most tricky to please?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I just love telling stories and I don’t get many complaints from my readers of any age. My ex-students are my sternest (and most helpful) critics.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer and illustrator?
For ever and always. I tried doing lots of ‘sensible’ jobs like radio broadcasting and journalism, but writing and illustrating have my heart. Sometimes I love one more, sometimes the other. It depends on the day and my mood.
What is the best part of being an author?
Oh, there are so many best parts. I guess the real moment of triumph is seeing your dreams and fantasies sitting in your hand with a shiny cover. Writing is like giving birth – you carry this idea around inside you for ages, it’s heavy, painful, difficult, heart-breaking – then suddenly – wow! It’s all come real and it’s beautiful.
And the worst?
Bad reviews – or maybe even worse – reviewers who haven’t read the book properly and slate it for something you didn’t actually write.
Who are your writing heroes?
Philip Reeve, Philip Pullman, David Almond, Ursula le Guin, Susan Cooper, Anthony Doerr… how much space do I get here?
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with three fictional characters, who would you choose, and why?
Merriman from Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ – because I could learn so much about life and mistakes from him.
The older Ged from Ursula le Guin’s ‘Wizard of Earthsea’ books – again, so much to learn, especially about what it means to let magic go.
Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ coz I want to go adventuring with her. Maybe I could pretend to be the White rabbit? I love the quirky way she looks at things.
I’ve just signed with the amazing Hannah Sheppard from DHH Agency, and she’s keen to sell ‘Hepsibah Brown’, a tale of Victorian school girls who are bent on righting wrongs. Fingers crossed.
Good luck! Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions, Beth!
A big pleasure, thank you for inviting me to join you. (I love the name, ‘Books and Wine Gums’!)
I’m the author of fourteen much-loved titles for children and teenagers. You can read the opening chapters here.
My home is near Taunton in Somerset (UK) with two disreputable moggies who rule my life. My four grown-up children are often around, demanding home-made bread and cats to cuddle.
I’m an author and a storyteller, an illustrator and a workshop leader. I visit schools, universities, festivals and events, and I’m happy to craft a day, a weekend or even something longer to suit you.
Travel is no problem: I’ve run a writing holiday in Sicily, and events and workshops for the British Council in Cameroon. I’ve done storytelling in Orkney, Cork and Younde, and knee-deep in Glastonbury Festival mud. I like a challenge!
Signed books available via my publisher: http://www.marchhamilton.com/ (Click on the title you want, and you’ll see a box where you can write your dedication request.)