Saturday, 4 March 2017

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with Beth Webb

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

I am Beth Webb,, author of 14 books for children (from a picture book to a dark and deadly late Iron Age historical fantasy series for YA/Adults). I’ve recently illustrated the re-issue of my ‘Fleabag’ books, and I’ve also illustrated (and sometimes helped to write) about 25 books for adults with learning disabilities I also teach creative writing and illustration to gifted and talented children and teens at:

1) Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

My first book was ‘The Magic in the Pool of Making,’ published in 1992, and long out of print. Written while legal appartheid in South Africa was in its last throes, I swapped the racial balance (a bit like Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses), and also wondered what would happen if we kept destroying the world with pollution at the rate we are already doing. It wasn’t well written, but I still like the ideas. I may revive it one day. 

What got me writing in the first place? I’ve always wanted to write, but couldn’t think of any stories… so I did journalism and some radio, including BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. When I had kids, I found the questions they asked helped me think up ideas. I still reply on the young people I know and work with to keep me thinking. 

2) How many books have you written and what are they?

I’ve written about 25 books, but had 14 published, they can all be found here: The unpublished ones are languishing at the back of my computer somewhere… Probably deservedly! 

3) Which book are you most proud of writing?

It’s always the very last book I’ve written, but I think my ‘Star Dancer’ Quartet was the most fascinating and challenging. Although the stories are about the late Iron Age and Roman invasion, they were partly written as a metaphor for many of the problems in the Middle East between 2004-10 – and I still believe they are relevant today. Star Dancer, the first book was Macmillian Children’s Books lead title in 2006, which was rather nice! 

4) Which book was your favourite to write?
Definitely my Fleabag series for readers aged 8-11. Fleabag is a 3 legged talking cat with serious ‘cattitude’. He’s wickedly fun and so rude to everyone, and of course, being allowed to illustrate my work as well was such a privilege. 

5) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?
Oh dear – I have such a wide range. I think maybe Griff, the boy with Down’s Syndrome in ‘Star Dancer’. He was honest and decent, and much more of a real man than the many villagers who despised him. 

6) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?
Groan! My overwriting is TERRIBLE! I was taught to use three adjectives per noun when I was at school, and I still struggle with it! 

7) Which of your covers if your favourite and why?
The wonderful cover for ‘Junk Yard Dragon’ by Russell Julian. It’s bright, beautifully designed, and expresses the ‘feel’ of the book superbly. 

8) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?
I have changed genres. I’ve gone from realistic stories for adults with learning disabilities, to talking cats and blue wizards (pure fantasy) to ‘Star Dancer’s properly researched history and archaeology, combined with its psychological approach to magic.
I also write short horror fiction for adults, but haven’t published much yet. 

9) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?
I’m working on two books – one is ‘Underhill’ a fantasy MG story based on traditional folklore, and ‘Skin and Bone’ a YA psychological thriller using real forensics. 

10) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?
Neil Gaiman. Because he’s faultless and Lewis Carroll, because he inspired me. 

11) Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?
They make me weep with horror at the overwriting, but I do think the stories are good. Thankfully I currently have a publisher who’s happy (indeed keen) for me to re-visit them, edit out the rubbish and let me re-issue them. It’s a fascinating process. 

Thank you so much Beth for answering my questions. I love your book covers and if I had kids, I'm sure they would love your books.

You can find Beth here:

Beth Webb Website -
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