Beth Webb writes fantasy fiction for children and young adults. She is the author of The Fleabag Trilogy and The Star Dancer Quartet as well as a number of beautifully illustrated books featuring dragons, witches and cats.
I first met Beth at Kilve Court when my daughter attended one of the amazing Creative Writing courses that she runs there for gifted and talented youngsters. All three of my children have attended many courses at this fabulous residential centre, but Beth stood out amongst the leaders as truly inspirational. My daughter still keeps in touch with Beth and some of the other young writers she met while on these courses. This eclectic group provide creative encouragement and friendship in equal measure.
As well as her writing courses, Beth runs workshops at schools and libraries throughout the south west of England. She is a busy lady so I was delighted when she agreed to this interview.
Please welcome to neverimitate, Beth Webb.
Thanks for inviting me.
Where do you typically write?
Ideas can pop up any place, any time, but when I sit down to do my work properly, I am at home in my study, on my faithful Mac.
Tell us about your writing process.
The courses I run at Kilve are terribly important to me. I love the kids I work with – they inspire me, and keep my mind fresh and alive. The students help me as much as I help them. They challenge and criticise me. They keep my writing fresh and relevant. I value what my students think of my work more than any highly paid editor in London!
As to how a book actually gets born: I very rarely have an ‘Athena’ moment when an idea pops out of my head fully grown and ready for action, but it has been known. Mostly I have ‘thunks’. These are friendly ideas that come to play and muck around in my head for a year or two – I make notes and talk to them, decide whether they have potential either as full novels – or just as short stories. I extend the idea in a large notebook, then one day I just start writing – often when I least expect it.
From a twinkle in my eye to beginning to write properly can take years, then although I can physically write a 50,000 word book in 2-3 months, the editing process to publication can take up to another two years.
A good story is like a vintage wine or an excellent cheese – it takes time to mature.
Tell us about your publishing experience.
Long, varied, and rather boring. I prefer small publishers to the bigger multinationals, but I’m afraid it’s all very political and a bit nasty out there.
In what ways do you promote your work?
In theory, my publishers set up talks, festivals and speaking engagements for me. In practice I have to organise most of that sort of stuff for myself, although I do have a friendly freelance publicist who helps too.
Luckily I love going to literary events, and I can talk for England, so that’s all great fun. Now I’ve learned to do Powerpoint, I can show my illustrations and photos of places and things that have inspired me. This means I can involve my audience a lot more, which I think is really important.
I do Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t have time to blog, although I’m always happy to write for someone else’s (Thanks Jackie!)
Best of all I like talking to and running workshops for the people I write for, introducing them to my worlds and my characters – all of whom I love dearly.
These days authors have to be performers to get our work noticed, but there are quite a few of us out there, all jostling to be noticed. We are a nice bunch of people, and it’s not easy to use your elbows when you’re with people you like!
What are some of your current projects?
I’m currently re-vamping my Fleabag trilogy and adding in illustrations, but that is a slow process. I have a couple of novels and some collections of short stories I’m cooking slowly.
I also illustrate and write books for adults with learning disabilities (Books Beyond Words). I have two of those on the go at the moment, so not much time to breath or do the housework or cut the lawn… (Any excuse!)
Where can my readers find you?
I’m on Facebook: Beth Webb
Twitter: Beth Webb (@bethwebbauthor)
Amazon: Beth Webb
Goodreads: Beth Webb
and have a personal website: About Beth | Beth Webb.
Beth wanted to write since she was about 3, scribbling on paper and folding the ‘pages’ between bits of cardboard. She studied Sociology and Psychology at university then became a hippy in a houseboat in Amsterdam, with a spell in a Bavarian castle. Since then she’s been a journalist (which she wasn’t good at), a radio broadcaster (which she loved), a cook, a cleaner and a mum to four amazing kids.
Beth wrote her first children’s book, ‘The Magic in the Pool of Making‘, to encourage her eldest son to want to read. The next thirteen titles followed slowly but surely, bringing dragons, talking cats and fire-wielding druid girls to the page.
She studied for her MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, and subsequently has taught writing for the Open College of the Arts and the University of Lancaster ‘Crossing Borders’ project in Africa.
Beth lives near Taunton in Somerset (UK) with two disreputable moggies who rule her life. She teaches writing to children and young adults at Kilve Court Residential Education Centre in Somerset.
As well as writing, Beth is also a performance storyteller, working from Orkney to Cameroon, and has even braved Glastonbury to tell stories in the mud! Beth also illustrates for Books Beyond Words – innovative publishing for adults with learning disabilities.