New Author – Rachel Hurd-Wood

1. What inspired you to become an author of children’s books?

My four-year-old son is an avid story consumer – he’s constantly demanding new stories from me so I have an extensive back catalogue of ideas! Growing up as an anxious, overly think-y child, I feel a purpose to provide reassurance for children – hopefully, that comes through. 

2. Do any of the books you write come from experiences or memories from your own childhood?

Not consciously, although I’m sure my sensibilities are informed by what captured my imagination as a child – and continues to do so now! I was always drawn to magic and the natural world, these themes often crop up in my books.

3. Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you reflect this in your writing?

Some ideas just arrive with a thud, fully formed. Others come from watching interactions between children, or from conversations I have with them. I always want my stories to come from a heartfelt place –as a reader you can feel the difference between that and one that’s more paint-by-numbers. Studio Ghibli films are the apex of storytelling in my opinion. The fantastical elements are crafted and balanced so perfectly. I dream of writing anything that’s a fraction as majestic as those.

4. Which people or books have had the greatest impact on your growth as an author? Why?

My favourite would be a tie between two of the greats: Roald Dahl and Julia Donaldson. Recently, I really liked Monsters by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake. They inspire me to write to their standard; with impeccably-told narratives, original ideas and memorable characters. 

5. What are some challenges you face in your field of work and how do you overcome them?

My biggest obstacle is time. I am a full-time parent who fits in anything else where possible – which basically means when the kids are asleep! Patience is key. The story may not get written in a week or month, it may take a year, but it will get written if you keep patiently plugging away. Some good advice I was given is: don’t fear the first draft. Or spend too long on it. Get the idea down and don’t worry if it’s badly written – that’s what rewrites and edits are for.

6. Do your own children strongly influence how you write your stories? How do they influence or inspire you?

Completely. Being immersed in their world is the best inspiration, at least for books aimed at younger children. Like most parents, I spend large chunks of the day attempting to diffuse big feelings – this often inspires stories about similar situations. When you witness what makes your child anxious or worried or joyful, you can create a story around it.

7. How do you help children relate to your stories?

Including relatable themes, feelings and characteristics are key. You can sneak in plenty of life lessons under the guise of animal characters as long as they display similar characteristics to their readers.

8. Do you think that starting your acting career as a child has had an impact on your writing? Specifically, has growing up as a child actress influenced your approach to storytelling?

I’m sure it has, in ways I’m not aware of. Having read scripts from such a young age means that whenever I think up a story, it’s very visual – the trick is pinning it down with words.

9. Have you noticed overlaps between the skills you used for acting and your skills as an author? How do they influence each other?

Yes, I’d say so. As an actor, you seek connection; both to the character you’re playing and to the other actors in a scene – not to mention the audience! As an author, you seek to create a connection between the world, the characters you create and the reader. Observation also features in both professions – an eye for detail in how people behave tends to help with both acting and writing.

10. What do you enjoy most about being a children’s book author?

The hope that my writing can bring comfort to children who need it. Whether that’s through escapism, amusement, or familiarity with themes or characters. If my books can help facilitate an emotional moment between a kid and whoever’s reading to them, or for themselves if they’re old enough, then I’ll be happy. 

11. Is there anyone you have worked with who strongly influenced your approach to writing?

I always run anything I write past someone I trust. And by ‘trust’, I mean trust not to mince their words. It can be hard to swallow honest (harsh!) feedback, but as long as it’s coming from someone who knows what they’re talking about, I’ll sit with the discomfort… then get to work on the next draft.

12. Are there any exciting new projects you are working on at the moment?

Currently, I’m focused on writing children’s books. But most of my waking hours are devoted to being a personal servant to my kids.