Frequently Asked Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How can I contact Jeremy Strong?
You can leave a message on the Message Board, or you can write to him at the address below.Jeremy Strong c/o Puffin Books 80 Strand LONDON WC2R 0RL.
For School Visits please contact SPEAKING OF BOOKS, 0208 858 6616 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why do you like writing stories?
When I was in Y3 and Y4 at my primary school I had a wonderful teacher. Her name was Miss Cox. She made me feel that writing stories was special and also that sometimes I was quite good at it. Also, I have always loved using my imagination. Writing is a very powerful thing – you can make anything you want happen when you write a story!
Do you ever visit schools?
I visit schools all the time. I travel all over the UK and abroad. If your school wants to contact me to try and organise a visit they should contact SPEAKING OF BOOKS - 0208 858 6616 – e-mail:<email@example.com> or they can leave me a message on the Message Board of this website.
Where do you live?
I live in a village near Bath, in Somerset. It has a lovely river running through the nearby fields and a beautiful National Trust property close by too. It has a wonderful garden where my grandchildren can run around and we have picnics there in the summer. I am surrounded by great countryside and I often go for long walks and think about stories - and all sorts of other things too. There is even a herd of alpacas nearby, in case I want to knit a jumper!
Where do you work?
I have taken over the shed at the bottom of the garden. I have a large desk and my computer and all my papers and pens and books and so on. I also have an armchair and a fridge and my hi-fi, so I am well set up. My cat, Jeeves, often joins me down there. He sleeps in the armchair while I work. It looks out over the garden, so I spend most of my time staring out of the window. (Or falling alseep.)
Do you do lots of planning?
Yes. I like to know that the story idea is going to work, and thinking it all through is a good way of ironing out problems before I start writing. Having said that, my planning is pretty haphazard. It is not particularly organised and I spend almost as much time doodling as I do writing things down. The planning can often take quite a long time, especially for a ‘big’ story – weeks of work before I write a single word of the story.
Does anyone help you?
My cat, Jeeves, likes to help. He likes to get my typing chair warm for me by sleeping on it for as long as possible. He also likes to guard the paper for my printer by sleeping on top of that once he’s been turfed off my chair. And every so often he likes to write his own stories. If I ever visit your school, ask me about it. At the moment he is sitting on the window sill watching the birds going to and from the little bird feeder outside.
How old are you?
I was born in 1949 so you can work that one out for yourself. (Fairly old!) But my brain is only about ten years old!
Where do the ideas come from?
Everywhere, at anytime. I can’t make ideas jump into my head, but I get ideas from things I see, from words, from dreams, things I hear, my childhood, anywhere!
Why do you end chapters the way you do?
Because I want to make sure that the reader wants to carry on reading to the end of the book.
Where do you get your characters from?
Sometimes I think of real people I know, and sometimes I just create them out of my head. I usually try and make them seem larger than life in some way. I exaggerate a lot when I am writing. (Most writers do.)
How old were you when you started writing?
I first wrote stories at school, when I was about six, just like all of you. I began to write seriously, trying to get my stories published, when I was about 23, although I didn’t actually get anything published until I was 28.
What was it like working in a doughut factory?
It was incredibly boring - the most boring job I have ever done! We had to put the jam into 6000 doughnuts every Friday evening! You soon get tired of doing THAT!
What were your hobbies when you were younger?
Getting into trouble. Getting myself out of trouble. Collecting the keys from sardine tins. (When I was a boy you needed a special little metal key to roll back the lid of the tin. Nowadays you just have a pull tab.) Falling out of trees. Swimming. Diving. Drawing. Writing stories. Quarrelling with my big brother. Riding my bike very fast. Exploring. Making secret camps.
How much money do you get for writing a book?
It’s complicated. the simplest way is to think that the writer gets ten per cent (or less) of whatever price the book is sold for. So if my books costs you £6.00, I would get 60p of that money. Whoopee! (Ha ha - NOT!!)
Have you always liked books?
Yes. I was lucky to be brought up in a house that was full of books and music and pictures, and now my house is full of books and music and pictures! Reading was always a way of escaping from the real world, and I used to spend hours day dreaming, living out my own fantasies inside my head. I used to read all kinds of things too, and still do - stories, poems, travel books, science books, newspapers, magazines, comics - almost anything.
How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on how long the story is. Sometimes I write very short stories.
Most of my longer stories take about two months to write. I spend ages thinking about the story (and sometimes falling asleep!) before I begin writing, and I also spend a lot of time re-writing it, to make it much better. The longest books so far are STUFF and WEIRD, both written for teenagers. Each one of those took me about six months, from the moment I began thinking about it to the final full stop.
Do you ever got bored with writing?
No, never! I sometimes get frustrated and fed-up, but that’s quite different from being bored. When the story gets stuck, or I can’t make the story as good on paper as the one in my head, then that is when I get fed-up. But I keep going back to try again, because I know I will be able to write it eventually.
How much writing do you do a week?
It depends on all sorts of things. When the writing is going well I might write something like fifty pages, which is quite a lot. When things are not going well I might manage two or three pages! Usually I will do about twenty in a week.
Did you really fall out of that window and land on your head?
Yes, and I didn’t bounce. I was playing with my brother and a friend. I was sitting next to the open window. They were chasing each other round the room and I got jogged and fell out. It was an accident. I was knocked unconscious and I woke up in hospital with a BIG headache and a broken right arm. I was in hospital for about a week.
Did you want to be anything else besides a writer?
I always thought it might be fun to be a racing car driver. At one time, when I was a teenager, I wanted to be an artist too. I also wanted to be a rock star. I used to play electric violin in a rock band called The Inedible Cheese Sandwich. There's a photo of the band in the photo gallery.
Do you have any hobbies?
Not really. I do all the most exciting things in my imagination. I listen to music. I go for long walks. I read a lot. We go to the cinema and theatre and art galleries and music events a lot. I guess my favourite occupation is probably sleeping! I’m quite good at that. Oh, I like eating different kinds of bread.
Have you got any pets?
Yes, I have got two children and two step-children. NO! Not really! Seriously though, because I have had children we used to have lots of pets: hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, cats, a dog, goldfish, stick insects and a rabbit. Now I just have cats, two hens and a flying cow. My children have grown up and live in houses of their own. My son is 41 and my daughter is 39. I also have six grandchildren.
And lastly, what advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Firstly - don't give up trying. The moment you give up you have no chance of success.
Secondly, read the books you enjoy carefully. Which bits do you especially like? Try and work out why you like them? Try and discover how good authors have put their stories together. How have they made the story funny, or scary, or exciting etc?
Thirdly, listen to criticism. This is VERY difficult! You must be prepared to be hard on yourself and throw away material, which although good, doesn't actually fit the story you are working on. You must also of course throw out the bad stuff as a matter of course.
Fourthly, read the story our loud to yourself. This is a really good way of discovering how the story flows. It will also show up those places where you have repeated certain words without realising, or where you need to add a bit more explanation, or where you have put too much explanation in, and it is cluttering the action.
Good Luck, and Good Reading!