At the Bath Children’s Literature Festival you can always guarantee you’ll get a collection of wonderful authors, and for my first visit this year, I was not disappointed. The Guildhall on Monday night was the stage for Frances Hardinge, author of The Lie Tree and winner of the Costa Book of the Year.
The first thing to note about Frances Hardinge… well, the first few things, as it’s very hard to narrow down my favourite… she is fantastically quirky and has a vocabulary that leaves you with a smile.
I was going to litter this piece with quotes from the talk, but after making a list of them as I went through, decided that there would be far too many taking up space where I normally waffle. So I’ll incorporate as many as I can below and hopefully you’ll get the same sense of fun as I did while I was there.
The iconic hat was present as always and the first question that pops into your head is “I wonder if there are times when she doesn’t wear it!?” I’ve been to Google Images… my guess would be no! And that’s a good thing, because I’m almost certain if the hat came off then some of the slightly crazy thoughts and ideas would be released into the atmosphere… and I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that.
Watching the interview was a great experience, and it’s wonderful to see an author genuinely thinking about their answers and getting excited when they tell you.
For anyone who themselves has committed something to paper hoping for a raging success, Hardinge gives us all that little bit of hope. She has always had a “turbulent relationship with her books” and has doubted how good the final manuscript might be. Ultimately she was proved wrong by thousands of readers who have been sweeping her novels off the shelves.
I don’t think I’ve met an author yet who wasn’t down to earth. But Hardinge, as she tells the story of Chris Riddell approaching her about doing a few “doodles” in the margins of his copy of The Lie Tree, really did come across like the excited teenager that we have all been at one point or another. The one that thinks “Oh my god, this guy is amazing… please mouth, don’t talk gibberish.” The result of this brief encounter is a fabulous new edition of her book with the precise and glorious illustrations we’ve come to expect from Riddell.
Frances Hardinge’s answers to “What I want to do/be when I grow up”: Learn how to fly unaided. Be an author. Be an artist. Be an international spy.
As a place to live and work, Hardinge’s home sounds perfect. Bulging at the seams with books, and a study that’s filled with extra books, wrapping paper and more water pistols than any adult should have. It sounds like a fun place to work into me, and all credit to her for not procrastinating by rummaging through boxes!
When asked about inspiration she gives a simple answer. It’s everywhere. To clear the head, and no doubt fill it back up with new ideas, Hardinge likes to go for walks and see the sights and sounds. On one of these walks (specifically when she got halfway across the Richmond Lock bridge) she had the idea for The Lie Tree. Inspiration is all around us, we should all try and expose our brains to the world… I couldn’t agree more.
There are so many brilliant authors out there, and I haven’t read them all.
An entirely accurate statement there, which led to something heartbreaking. You realise at some point that you can’t read all the books. *heart shatters into a million pieces* We all know that it’s true, and I know I’ve heard it before and promptly stored it away in a cupboard in my brain as sheer nonsense that I don’t want to think about again. The solution (not a solution to reading all the authors, but more) could be to read stand alone novels, you can jump from author to author and experience more wonderful make-believe worlds. When I got home I went to my TBR pile and whispered in a Gollum-esque voice “soon my preciouses”.
I could carry on for ages on tangents about things that were talked about, but I’ll leave you with one last thing that made a lot of us in the room nod and mumble in agreement…
7 year old Frances to adult Frances: I know adults think I’m stupid, but I’m not. Remember this when you’re an adult.
Other books by Frances Hardinge: