Name: Swapna Haddow
Place of birth: London
Now living in: Beautiful Christchurch. Seriously, it’s utterly beautiful and everyone has made us feel so welcome.
What is your favourite food?
Pizza and chips. Not the classy kind of wood-fired pizza with triple-cooked sweet potato chips. Oh no. I’m talking the cheap pizza and chips you get a kids party.
Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?
I have lots of nicknames. My family are big on nicknames and if anyone ever calls me by my real name, I know I’m in trouble.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I average about three to four embarrassing moments a day. I spent my childhood calling my teachers ‘mum’ and falling off/on/in to things. I’m a massive klutz and I hardly ever think before I speak. I can’t think of one particular most embarrassing moment but I do remember cycling with my family down a towpath and my son rode his bike straight into a canal; after rescuing him and then telling him off, I explained how to ride his bike correctly and proceeded to ride straight into the canal myself. My son hasn’t taken me seriously since.
Who inspired you when you were little?
I was inspired by anyone who had adventures. I loved reading stories about adventurers, especially daredevils like Amelia Earhart and Isabella Bird but also hearing stories from family and friends who had returned from their travels. Characters from the Famous Five and movies like The Goonies had me daydreaming about my own adventures.
What were you like at school?
I enjoyed learning and putting together projects. I still do. Poring over books and aiming for good marks were my motivators but I mainly loved going to school to see all my friends. I was a bit of a chatterbox in class.
What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?
My favourite subject was probably history. True-life stories always had me hooked. I can’t say I was particularly keen on sport; mainly because of my clumsiness and lack of hand-eye coordination but I did enjoy athletics and hurdles were my thing.
Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
Gosh, this is a tough one. I’d love to have met my paternal grandparents, particularly my grandfather. He was a village chief and, as legend would have it, a bit of a philanderer. I’m sure he had a lot of stories to tell.
Who is your favourite author/children’s author?
I loved authors who made me laugh. Roald Dahl was a particular favourite. I love his dark, twisted humour and the incredible way he told stories.
Why did you want to be a writer?
It’s the best job in the world. You are free to imagine and create with no limits. Every time I get a letter from someone who has enjoyed my books, or a child dresses up as one my characters for Book Day, I can’t help but feel in awe that something I have created has gone on to inspire someone else to create. It’s mind-blowing and an utter honour to be able to do this job.
Do you have a special place where you write your books?
At the moment, it’s wherever I can balance my laptop. I dream of having an office or a shed, full of books, illustrations, cosy fabrics and colour, and a super comfortable chair of course.
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing is that I get to escape the madness and darkness of the world and be in my own space. The worst thing is trying to escape the madness and darkness of the world and find my own space.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
I’d love to run a detective agency or be a spy. I think whatever I do, I need to feed the nosy-parker inside me.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers or illustrators?
Never give up. It can be a rejecting industry so you have to believe in yourself and your work. Even once you have a book deal, there will still be rejections. Find yourself a good agent, a supportive editor and a bunch of writer/illustrator friends; you’ll need them all at some point along the journey.
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