Author Confessions: Theresa Breslin

Theresa Breslin interview for Ghost Soldier
Category: Reading

Theresa Breslin has written over thirty books. Her work has appeared on stage, radio and television, and been translated many times.

Theresa won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for Whispers in the Graveyard and has recently been nominated again for her latest novel Ghost Soldier, published to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of WW1.

We overcame our fear of ghosts to track Theresa down and coax her into our Author Confessions booth...


Which author or fictional character would you most like to party with?

One year when we were co-tutoring at Moniack Mhor near Inverness, author Cathy MacPhail and I went for long walk and she made me laugh until I cried. I’d just finished reading Michel Faber’s Under the Skin (a truly terrifying book about people disappearing on Highland roads) so you will appreciate the power of Cathy’s wit and humour.  

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about your work?

'Why is there always water in your stories?'

When do you write best?

In the mornings – the earlier the better. When I finish working for the day I usually leave a problem unsolved or a scene not quite completed, or just begun. I think it gives my subconscious time to process things. Then the next morning when I get up I grab something to eat and take it with me to my writing room. No conversation, radio, newspaper, television, telephone calls, and absolutely, definitely, no Internet use of any kind.

If I’m in full writing mode I might log on later in the morning or afternoon or evening – but sometimes not all. 

Where do you write best?

Probably in my writing room ‘cos the desk is set up to start at anytime. Anything else is a faff to set up. But I still make notes via pencil and paper. I like being outside but I do have to be alone and quiet.

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of actually finishing any book.

What’s your favourite book shop?

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Dornoch Bookshop – not just because they have sold 100 copies of The Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk & Fairy Tales this summer, but also because it’s absolutely beautiful inside and outside. Those arched windows are to die for, and the staff – the staff! – are truly wonderful. They talk about, like, books, ye’know, in a highly informed and enthusiastic way.

Is writing a pain or a pleasure?

Writing is both a pain and a pleasure. Extremely stressful when it’s not working and every stricken word has to be wrung out – even worse when I zing off a few thousand words, prepare for bed, tired but happy, drink my hot chocolate and snuggle down under the duvet, then… suddenly I awake at 3.a.m. with a start, realising that most of what I’ve written the previous day is unimaginable tosh, rambling drivel and peppered with mistakes.

What’s your most extreme research story?

Oh, so many…too many.

I sort-of–ish broke into the castle at Imola. I was researching The Medici Seal  and I’d found out that this was where Cesare Borgia, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci spent one winter together. When I arrived the castle was closed for the winter and, therefore, if you want to be picky, not technically open to the public. But I’d travelled there for the sole purpose of seeing inside. I knocked. No-one answered, and then I noticed that the key was in the door. Honestly it was. And so…  

I’ve had my face frozen off in Siberia and there was a teensy hiatus when the axle broke when travelling through Kyzyl Kum desert in Uzbekistan. But I’m guessing the highlight of extreme research moments would be my seven minutes of paralysing fear when I was in Jerusalem the day after a bomb had gone off in the market. There I was, with my wee notebook and pencil stub, sitting alone at the back of a bus outside the Jaffa Gate when the driver approached up the aisle and sat down opposite (thereby blocking me off from the exit) to assure me that, despite the trouble, I would be perfectly safe because he carried a gun, and… did I want to see it? Whereupon he unwrapped the object he’d been carrying wrapped up in crumpled newspaper, which was indeed, a gun… 

Which book should every child read?

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. It should be read to children on a regular basis from about the age of two. Eventually they will snatch the book from your hand and read it themselves. 

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?

Try not to become discouraged. If you think it’s a good idea, then it probably is a good idea. You may have to rework it or leave it to simmer for a while - but a good idea is a good idea is a good idea.

Which author do you nominate for Author Confessions?

I nominate the shooting star and hugely popular Kirkland Ciccone – his answers will be way more entertaining than mine! 


Competition: Win a copy of Ghost Soldier
Ghost Soldier by Theresa Breslin

Thanks to Doubleday UK, we have five copies of Ghost Soldier to giveaway. 

All you have to do to enter is answer this simple question in the comments below or email your answer to marked 'Theresa Breslin Competition':

- With which book did Theresa Breslin win the Carnegie Medal?

Closing date: 17:00, Monday 17 November 2014. Open to UK entrants only. Full terms and conditions.

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