Monday 10 March 2014


At the moment I'm writing a book which started as a conversation with my husband during which I said how I could remember where I was and with whom when I learnt of the death of my adored fifth grade teacher, but I had no memory of what happened subsequently. ‘Why don’t you write about it?’ my husband asked.

Over the past few years I’ve written several books based on children we fostered, a nine year old boy and girl, both of whose mothers were drug-addicted. And then a book about a family of children put into care when their parents returned to a drug life-style. But it had not occurred to me to write about my young self, raised on a goat and chicken farm, and how I came to learn about death – of animals and of humans.

The Girl in the Basement front new sml.jpgWrite about what you know is one of the first tenants of authorship. One knows most about one’s own life so this has been my starting point for the majority of my novels. For example, the starting point for my YA novel, The Last Refuge, was my experience of domestic violence as a child and later as an adult. When I wrote Crossing the Line, about a teenager who self-harms and later finds herself in a psych ward, I was drawing on my own experience as a self-harming teenager and as a bipolar sufferer who had several stints in hospital.

The inspiration for my latest YA novel, The Girl in the Basement (Celapene Press) was a newspaper clipping and photograph. The story told how a Polaroid showing two bound and gagged children – one a teenager, the other a seven-year-old -- had been found in a Florida car park. Both children had been missing for different periods of time. When the photo was shown on national television, the respective parents came forward; this was the first evidence they had of what had happened to their children after they went missing. My curiosity was piqued; who had kidnapped the children and why? What happened to them after the photo was taken? Eventually I created a fictional story about a teenage girl kidnapped by a serial killer who wanted a family of his own.

I have published over 120 books, mainly for young readers. The inspiration for each of them has been different, though most are the result of my being able to draw on my own experiences and emotions. Who Pushed Humpty? came about after I’d seen graffiti on a wall (Humpty Was Pushed!) The Case of the Kidnapped Brat (co-written with my husband, Bill Condon) was the result of a publishing commission for a mystery novel. The Wild and Wacky Adventurers’ series that I’m currently writing with Bill was initiated when we realised it was far too long since we’d collaborated; we decided on humorous books for 8 to 11 year olds and took it from there. (Read about the creative process of getting started on my blogsite, Writing for Children )

Inspiration is really just another word for getting started. If you don’t get started = you don’t write = you don’t finish writing = you don’t get published.

That’s just about it, folks.

© Dianne Bates



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