WRITERS' MINDS Pippa Goodhart

Jools Abrams talks to Pippa Goodhart, author of a huge range of books for children and teenagers, including, under the name Laura Owen, the Winnie the Witch picture books.

As a parent, teacher and reader, I know Pippa Goodhart by another name, Laura Owen, author of the Winnie the Witch successful picture book series. She’s worked with such illustrious illustrators as Korky Paul and Nick Sharratt and penned a huge range of books for young children to teenagers. Her picture book You Choose in Space (illustrated by Nick Sharratt) came out in September and she did an event at The Edinburgh Book Festival, along with Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi, based around her picture book A Bottle of Happiness.

A Bottle of Happiness by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi, published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd 2017 

1. Inspiration – where do your ideas for a story come from? Hunter or gatherer?

A bit of both. I gather ideas, then hunt out more to develop them. Historical novels can be a lovely excuse for researching lots of facts. But a simple picture book might come from just a feeling or a game or a twist on an existing story.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantster – is there method in your process, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Very definitely a pantster in that it seems to lead to a dull result if I plot in detail before I start to write. Then I’m steering a character over a predestined course. I like to put a fully formed character into some particular situation, and then I watch what they do and how they react, giving them the odd nudge, and a story develops.
You Choose in Space, by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Nick Sharratt, Published by Puffin 2017

3. Shed sitter or café dreamer? Where do you write?

That’s evolved over the twenty-five years I’ve been writing. For many years I was writing in odd free moments between caring for children. So a lot of the thinking happened whilst doing other things, and then I’d write frantically on the edge of the kitchen table when I got a chance. Five years ago my husband built us a new house, and I have a proper big work space, as well as much more writing time, and it's bliss!

4. Do you have any artefacts, mottos or words of wisdom by your desk?

All sorts of rubbish, but none of it ‘inspirational’, I’m afraid!

5. Target word count per day or as and when it comes?

As and when. Picture books can have tiny word counts, or even be wordless, but take a lot of work time to create. Novels can clock up the word count very fast.

6. High days and holidays? Do you write seven days a week, or weekends and holidays off?

I wish I could claim to be disciplined and have regular weekends off, but the truth is that I love my work, and I do at least a touch of it very nearly every day. A daughter is getting married next month. I don’t think I’ll do any work that day!

7. Quill or keyboard? Pen or technology?

Keyboard for most of it, but I scribble notes with anything on anything anywhere when a thought strikes!

8. Music or silence to write to?

Neither, really. Not music, because I’d want to listen to it, so that would distract. But I do have family and life noises going on.

9. Chocolate or wine?

Chocolate, nice and dark, please!

10. Perspiration or inspiration?

Both, but more of the graft than the gift of brilliant ideas, unfortunately.

11. Where do you find the muse? Any techniques for inspiration?

Just be open to life, notice things and play with them in your mind.

12. Do you ever hear your character’s voice in your head? Have you ever seen them in real life? (I once boarded a train and sat opposite the spitting image of a character I had just been writing about).

There have been moments when a character has become so alive to me that it truly feels as if they are in charge of the story. In Finding Fortune, I had Ida and her father on their way to the Klondike Gold Rush, and I didn’t know whether or not they were going to find gold. The way that story worked its ending was a complete surprise to me, dictated by Ida!
Finding Fortune by Pippa Goodhart, published by Catnip Publishing 2013

13. If there was one piece of advice or wisdom you could impart to other writers about the craft of writing, what would it be?

Join a group (SCBWI, for instance!) so that you get the chance to share experiences, good and bad, and inspire and help each other. It makes things both possible, and more fun.

Find out more about Pippa Goodhart here

Header photo credit: Christine Jennings


J.H. Abrams is an award-winning writer with an MA in creative writing from Birkbeck, where Michael Rosen was her tutor. She's also a ghost memoir writer for Story Terrace and a writer of novels for young adults.
Twitter: @joolsdares
Blog: shewhodareswrites.blogspot.com

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

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