WRITERS' MINDS Paula Harrison


W&P's roving reporter Sarah Broadley talks to Paula Harrison about faeries, blood moons and planning a series

You've just published your 40th book, Kitty & The Great Lantern Race, what an amazing achievement! Do you have further series mapped out? 

Actually, I’ve got two books out in February – one from the Kitty series and one from Princess of Pets, so it’ll be 42! Hmm, there’s nothing that I can really go public about right now! But there are several more Kitty books to come which will hopefully please fans of that series. 

From The Rescue Princess series in 2012 to the fabulous Kitty in 2020 along with The Royal Rescuers, did you have any idea when you started writing that your back catalogue would be full of series or did you only have stand alones in mind with the ideas that you had? 

I’ve always been drawn to big commercial concepts and I knew they were series ideas. If you can picture your story as a TV series then you know you’re not writing a stand alone! 

Once you know you're writing more than one book in a series, do you plan the whole series out before you start the first book? 

Not the whole series because you don’t know how many books you’re going to be asked to write. Some publishers will start by asking for 3 or 4 books and some will ask for six. But I will check that the idea does indeed have series potential by sketching out plots for further books. It’s useful to know how the series might develop and what might change in each book. That can vary widely depending on the initial concept and how the publisher wants to present it. For example, will there be one main character throughout the series like Kitty or will the publisher want a new character on the cover of each book like The Rescue Princesses

Plotter or pantser? Pin boards covered in Post-its, highlighted drafts, character arcs, etc? Or 'lets just see where this goes' approach? 

I’m a hybrid writer! I start off by plotting – in a notebook – and I do pages of mind maps where I create the series along with characters, setting and scenarios. Then I’ll write an outline for the plot of a book with a rough idea of how that’s divided into chapters. But once I start writing I will 'pants' quite freely and ignore my outline if necessary. If I get the feeling that the original plan isn’t compelling enough or isn’t working for some reason I’ll go off at a tangent and carry on that way. Thinking about it, I'm probably a bit more of a planner than a pantser, but some of the best inspiration can come from moments of 'pants' so I think it’s an asset to be able to do both. If you’re writing series you need to be quite organised anyway. Your readers will notice if characters, settings and so on are inconsistent between books. They want to inhabit the world of your series and they don’t like it if that world collapses because things are uneven.

The Red Moon Rising series is about faeries and blood moons. What research did you do for these three books and have you seen a blood moon? A lunar eclipse is a fascinating event, what helped you decide to use this in your plot rather than other 'sky at night' phenomenons? 

Yes, I have seen one – it was amazing. The characters in the Red Moon Rising trilogy are closely connected to the natural world, so I needed something natural yet spectacular. The books are a Middle Grade trilogy about dark magic and finding your identity. 

Kitty's tag line is superb – 'Girl by day. Cat by night. Ready for adventure'. Writers' don't just write the text for books, there's the synopsis, blurb, tag lines etc – what do you like to work on and what makes you sigh but you know it needs done? 

It is a great tag line but it was written by OUP not by me! I’m sometimes asked to write blurbs, but more often the editors do it. I like nearly everything I do from synopses to first drafts to edits. I think the only thing I really sigh about is proofreading final pages of the book. I’m always convinced that I’ve missed a typo! 

If two of your characters from different series could meet, who would it be and what would they say to each other and the adventure they'd go on together? 

I think I’d send Sophy from The Storm Dragon (Secret Rescuers) to meet Kitty (from Kitty!). Sophy would be amazed by the modern world and the cityscape that Kitty lives in, and Kitty would be entranced by Sophy’s tales of dragons. I think she’d want to return to Sophy’s world and ride on one! 

Do you have any go-to resources that you use when writing? Any hints or tips for those venturing into 'series' land? 

Not really – sorry. Although I’m a big fan of Story by Robert McKee ,but I haven’t read it for quite a while. 

Where to next? Do you have any plans to write for older children, young adults, teens or even adults? 

I already write for older children as five of my published books are Middle Grade novels, but I can’t really see myself writing for teens or adults. I’ve been working on some picture books which is totally new for me, but easy to fit around looking after a one-year-old. It’s nice to try something different. They’re like little sculptures that you can return to after days or even weeks, and chip and shape the words a little bit more. 

Do you have a tradition when you finish a book and you've pressed send? Nap/walk/cry/jump for joy/cake – all of the above? 

Gin? No, just joking! I might go for a run or maybe just make a cup of tea.


Best-selling author Paula Harrison was born in Bletchley in Buckinghamshire. As a child she spent hours reading and making up stories. After studying for an English degree at the University of Nottingham, she worked as a primary school teacher for many years before becoming an author. She has written lots of children's books including The Rescue Princesses series which has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Her other books include the Red Moon Rising trilogy, the Kitty series and the Princess of Pets series. Paula likes wandering in woods and on beaches, she also loves watching films, listening to music and hanging out with her family.

Paula's website: paulaharrison.jimdofree.com
Follow Paula on Twitter: @P_Harrison99


Sarah Broadley lives in Edinburgh with her family and two cats. She is a member of SCBWI Scotland. Follow her on Twitter.

Natalie Yates is Writers' Minds editor for Words & Pictures. Follow her on Twitter. Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org.

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