Hannah, Finn, Cameron, Katy and Ru from The Scribblers interview Martin Chilton

On the sixth day of the festival, we had a chance to meet Martin Chilton, journalist and Culture Editor for The Telegraph website. Martin has been hugely involved with the festival, chairing events with the Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and several others. We had a lovely chat and asked him a few questions, and he seemed really relaxed. We even ended up talking about football!

Quickfire questions:

Q:Glass half full or half empty?

A:Half full.

Q:Text or call?


Q:Notebook or laptop?


Q:Bunkbeds – top or bottom?

A:Definitely top.

General questions:

Q:If you could be any fictional character from a book or film excluding your own, who would it be?

A:I would be WC Fields in The Bank Dick because he is a very funny character.

Q:If you had the day off and money was no object, what would you do?

A:A day by the sea in Sardinia.

Q:If you were PM, what would be the first law you’d pass?

A:Free education for everyone.

Q:If you had a superpower, what would it be?

A:Be able to teleport; it saves time travelling.

Q:What would be your ideal workplace?

A:A hut near the beach.

Katy and Hannah from The Scribblers interview Abi Elphinstone

We were lucky to talk to and interview Abi Elphinstone. She was lovely and very inspiring to young writers. It was a real pleasure to meet her and ask her a few questions about her book The Dreamsnatcher, and a couple of general questions as well. We strongly recommend that any child who loves stories with adventure and living in the wild read the book or go to any talks she’s doing.

Quick-fire questions:

Q: Glass half full or half empty?

A: Glass half full.

Q: Text or call?

A: Text.

Q: Notebook or laptop?

A: Notebook.

Q: Bunkbeds – top or bottom?

A: Top.

General questions:

Q: If you had a day off and money was not an object, what would you do?

A: I would love to climb the fjords in Norway. I did that at Easter recently, and it was amazing. Yes – climb the fjords and hunt dragons.

Q: If you were PM, what would be the first law you passed?

A: Not to abolish libraries, and to make sure they are still around, because I think anybody should be able to get books from just down the road. Not that we were cutting down on them, that we were making more of them. And also a mode of transport could be dragons, as I love them.

Q: If you had a super-power what would it be?

A: I think I would love to fly because it might come in useful.

Q: What would be your ideal workplace ?

A: If I could have an office in a tree, that could be really cool. At the moment I work in a hut at the bottom of the garden, but a tree house would be amazing.

Q: What is your favourite part of the writing process?

A: It’s the bit I’m doing at the time. I do a lot of research, I love it when I do. And then when I write, I love that you get caught up in it all and it’s like, go go go! so it depends on what I’m doing. Although I do find it hard to put everything in order.

Q: If you could have everything in your house painted one colour, what colour would it be?

A: Yellow, because it makes me happy, but then my favourite colour is blue so maybe I would have the top floor yellow and then the bottom floor blue. I would love the ceilings to be painted like the sky.

Q: Why did you choose to include magic in your book, instead of something more realistic?

A: I think it’s because my brain is weird like that. I think I generally believe magic is real. And I think when I see an amazing waterfall I always wonder what might be behind it, and in a world where everything can be proved it is nice to have something that can’t.

Q: Where is the book set?

A: That’s a hard question. Well, it’s not a real place. Parts of it are based on places I went to as a child and things in my childhood garden such as the woods and treehouse.

Q: Did you come up with the poems and spells yourself (as they are very cleverly written)?

A: I did, yes. There was a poem by Edgar Allan Poe called ‘Annabel Lee’ and I used that rhythm to write some of the poems, and I just kind of made up the anagram ones.

Cameron from The Scribblers interviews Chris Priestly

Today, the fifth day of the festival, I had the fortune to interview Chris Priestly, author of the Tales Of Terror series and other macabre tales. Many of his novels are fascinating takes on classic Gothic literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or, in the case of his most recent novel, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Uniquely sinister in its unflinching view of a maritime journey through limbo and back, The Dead Men Stood Together blows a welcome breath of life into Coleridge’s epic. Read on to hear Chris’ thoughts on writing…

Quickfire questions: 

Q: Glass half full or half empty?

A: Half full.

Q: Text or call?

A: Call.

Q: Notebook or laptop?

A: Laptop.

Q: Bunk beds – top or bottom?

A: Definitely top.

General questions: 

Q: If you could be any fictional character from a book or film, excluding your own, who would it be?

A: That’s very hard. I’d quite like to be Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island. That would be good.

Q: If you had the day off and money was no object, what would you do?

A: I would…that’s difficult. I would quite like to fly to New York. Does that count as a day off?

Q: If you were PM, what would be the first law you’d pass?

A: I would pass a law saying that 16 and 17-year-olds could vote in all our elections, because it seems incredible to me that 16-year-olds can join the army but they can’t vote. Seems mad.

Q: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

A: Flying. Definitely flying. I’ve always wanted to fly.

Q: What would be your ideal workplace?

A: My ideal workplace would be a little shed or cottage in a quiet spot next to a river. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those. I work at a table in my bedroom!

Q: What is your favourite part of the writing process?

A: My favourite part is the middle part, after you’ve thought of the idea for the story and are properly writing the book. That’s the bit I really, really like before you get to the bit where you have to do all of the editing. I love that bit when you’re writing the middle of the book.

Special questions: 

Q: Why do you want to scare people with your books?

A: Why do I want to scare people? I don’t know. I think I quite like… writing scary things is a bit like writing a joke where, like a punchline, you’ve got a sort of scary twist. I quite like writing effects, things where you’re trying to get effects from your reader. I just like trying to make that work.

Q: Which Tales Of Terror novel was your favourite to write?

A: I think it was probably Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror because there were lots of stories in there I’d had in my head for a long time, and it was just great to see them published.

Q: Which writer’s work chills you the most?

A: There’s a writer called Robert Aickman, who I discovered in the last couple of years and he wrote very, very creepy short stories. His stuff is great. Steven King is also good when he’s writing scary stuff, as well as Edgar James and Edgar Allan Poe.

Q: Finally, if you had to write a non-fiction book, what would its topic be?

A: That’s a good question but a tricky one. I’m a bit obsessed with the 18th century, so it might be something about the 18th century. I wrote a book once about someone called Jack Sheppard, who was a prison breaker in the early 18th century, and the person that caught him was someone called Jonathan Wild, who was an amazing character. I would quite like to write a book about Jonathan Wild. He’s both the first proper detective and also the first gangster in one person!

Daniel Hahn, John Boyne and Jenny Valentine by Eleanor

Today I saw these three authors sit down and attempt an incredibly difficult task: choosing the top ten young adult (YA) novels. It was fascinating to hear what they picked and their arguments for them. I’ve often been put off YA fiction by the way it’s transformed into a genre full of The Hunger Games spin-offs- this event has definitely made me rethink that view and given me loads of great new books for my to-read list!
One really interesting part of this event was their discussion of what defined a ‘YA book’. As a well-recognised YA author, Jenny Valentine finds it patronising how people feel under an obligation to adjust their books, making the themes appropriate for readers. She doesn’t think about her audience when writing, saying that’s the publisher’s job. John Boyne agreed, saying he wrote YA books by writing adult books but then sticking children in them. This was reflected in the books he chose, with dark themes such as the Irish Troubles – he justified these choices by saying a book isn’t about the themes behind it but about the voice it’s written in. Even books with the most depressing of themes can be made light if written in the right style.
The audience had the the opportunity to let their opinions be heard, suggesting a tenth book for the list. The final result was a close call between His Dark Materials and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – the latter won but it felt that if only there were more time, the matter could have been debated endlessly. “If only it could be a hundred books,” Valentine said, which I feel summed up the spirit of the event pretty well.

David Almond, Jenny Valentine and Sarah Crossan at Hay Festival 2015 by Olga

I went into the tent full of excitement. I mean, a combination of David Almond (Skellig), Sarah Crossan (The Weight of Water) and Jenny Valentine (Finding Violet Park), who are all legendary, is too much to resist. All of them were happily chatting away, and were very friendly with everyone, and as a result the tent felt very cosy, despite the number of people. David Almond, whose most recent publication is titled A Song for Ella Grey, seemed at home in Hay, away from his home in the North. His book is set in Tyneside, and Almond manages to bring a certain quality and charm to an area known for being harsh. Almond’s novel is philosophical and complicated, but makes you want to find out more about Orpheus, Ella and Claire. Jenny Valentine is equally at home in Hay. She based her novel on some of her own personal experiences and, as a result, I found her book very easy to connect with. Jenny is very ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny and her anecdotes about her childhood made us all smile. In many ways Valentine is very similar to Sarah Crossan; they are both very honest, very funny and very blonde! Even though Sarah uses poetry in YA fiction – a dangerous move since generally poetry is considered boring for teens – she manages to hook her readers in and makes them connect with her character Apple. I would definitely recommend reading their books and coming to see them all when they are next at Hay!

Kazuo Ishiguro at Hay Festival 2015 by Anna and Emmeline

Writer of acclaimed novels such as Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro spoke yesterday about his new book The Buried Giant. A clearly devoted and well-read audience lapped up his experience of the process of writing and how his work ties in to social morals relevant across the globe today.

Ishiguro’s new novel focuses on societies’ suppression and selection of memories and whether issues are better left buried (hence the title) or raked up and discussed despite the pain left there; this contrasts to his earlier work which he always felt was based more around individual struggle with memories. The Buried Giant is in the fantasy genre (and even includes ogres which, as the author commented, are rather unnecessarily disliked in the literary world). If it came to it, “I’d be on the side of the ogres,” he commented, eliciting a warm response from the audience.

Amongst other topics, he discussed the placement of genre stereotyping in the world of fiction and how he tried not to write with a particular genre in mind.

We were eagerly anticipating this talk by one of the world’s most treasured authors and I’m pleased to report that he did not disappoint.

Greg Jenner at Hay Festival 2015 by Patrick

You may think you don’t know Greg Jenner, but if you’ve ever watched ‘Horrible Histories’, you have Greg to thank. He is the historical consultant for all the series (and occasionally pops up as a corpse or two in a few episodes!). His latest book, ‘A Million Years In A Day: A Curious History Of Everyday Life’ explains the origin of everyday objects and practices; things to which we don’t give a second thought, for example brushing our teeth or going to the toilet.

In his talk, Greg took us through an average day, from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed, and explained when each object was invented and where in the world it came from.

In fact, much of our everyday life dates back to an even earlier time than we think. For example, the first bed was invented 77,000 years ago, with mattresses woven from plants. The first toilet seat was invented 3,200 years ago.

Do you want to know where your underpants came from, or when alarm clocks were first invented? All the answers are in Greg’s new book!

Another thing he showed was that hygiene didn’t improve over the years – for example thousands of years ago, hygiene was far more sophisticated than in the 18th Century.

Because Greg is used to writing for ‘Horrible Histories’ he was able to make it accessible to people of all ages, and he brought the history to life by using humour, making a few jokes about recent politics: “In history, there have been 128 billion people in the world, which is nearly as many times as Nigel Farage has been on the BBC!” Whether you’re 8 or 98, this event is not just informative, but extremely entertaining.


Tim Bowler, Sam Hepburn and Ken Oppel at Hay 2015 by Olga

There was a general hum of anticipation in the Starlight Stage as we all waited for Tim Bowler, Sam Hepburn and Ken Oppel to appear. These three authors share one thing in particular; all their stories have a certain dangerous aura around them. At first glance Hepburn looks like a friendly BBC documentary maker, but when she talks about her story, ‘If You Were There’, she seems to take a mysterious tone. Hepburn told us that she based her story on a pizza shop owner from Afghanistan, living in Streatham, who was convicted for terrorism. She takes inspiration from Malala. Tim Bowler, who wrote ‘Game Changer’, believes in going with the flow, and often doesn’t know where his stories will lead him. Bowler has a very funny and natural air and when he talks he takes everyone with him. Ken Oppel, all the way from Canada, wrote ‘The Boundless’, a story about a seven-mile-long train with a mini civilization on it. His story is tense and intriguing and draws you in the more you hear it. I hadn’t previously read any of these books, and went in expecting to some books written for pre-teen boys, but have come out ready to go and read all of them! Olga

Steven Moffat at Hay Festival 2014 by Jaffa

Being a Whovian, I was very much looking forward to seeing Steven Moffat, and by the sound of things, so was everyone else – as soon as he entered the tent, everyone erupted into the loudest cheer I have heard yet. He was very funny, and the best thing he said was, “My wife divorced me she thought I liked television more than her. I proved her point by writing a sitcom about it.”

He made everyone laugh and didn’t use too many big words, which I expected him to do as he writes so much using big and clever words. Asked what would be in the next series of Dr Who, he said, “I have lots of things in my head… but I’m not giving away any of them.” I think the best question was, “What do you find harder, finding a pre-written text and putting it into a modern script, or writing your own plot?” The answer was, “They’re both very hard.”

By Jaffa.
Jaffa, 13, is a Whovian who spends an awful lot of time writing stories and playing piano.

Anthony Horowitz at Hay Festival 2014 by Finn

I went to see Anthony Horowitz to talk about his new book, ‘Russian Roulette’, part of the popular Alex Rider books, which he wrote 15 years ago. The difference between the books is that the earlier Alex Rider ones are from the perspective of the good guy and ‘Russian Roulette’ is the other way around.

He was very funny and said that when he was smaller he asked his mum to buy him a human skull for his birthday. He wasn’t sure who was weirder: him for asking for it – or his mum for buying it! Then he chatted about films not being as good as books because with books you have the power of imagination.

I would highly recommend reading his books as they are gripping and you cannot put them down. So go to the nearest bookshop and buy one of his books!!!!

By Finn.
Finn, 11, likes reading, tennis, drawing and being outside.


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