Malorie Blackman – a literary legend


From Children’s Laureate to author of the incredible Noughts and Crosses series and screenwriting for Doctor Who, Malorie Blackman is having a wonderfully varied and illustrious literary career. We catch up with her to find out how her love for writing all began.


What made you decide to become a writer?
A love of stories and reading. Reading wonderful stories made me want to create my own. From the age of 7-8, I used to write stories for my own amusement. It was only when I was in my 20s that I first thought about writing as a career.

Did school impact on your choice of career?
Negatively, I’m afraid. I told my Careers teacher that I wanted to go to university to do an English & Drama degree and become an English teacher and she replied that, ‘Black people don’t do that!’ To her racist mind, black people had no place aspiring to go to university. I ended up working as a computer programmer for a number of years before I decided I needed a complete career change.

Nothing in this world that gets created comes into being without imagination.

Have you always had an amazing imagination?
Stories and poems have always been a passion of mine – both reading them and making-up my own. Being an inveterate daydreamer at school led to me frequently getting told-off by my teachers for it. So it’s ironic that daydreaming is now how I make my living! Nothing in this world that gets created comes into being without imagination – and imagination is like a muscle – the more you use it the stronger it gets. Exercise yours!

Who was your biggest influence growing up?
My parents, and people like Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. I’ve always admired people who stand up for what’s right.

Was there a moment in your life that was a turning point and made you want to write about racism?
The Stephen Laurence case was the catalyst for writing Noughts & Crosses, but a major part of why I became a writer in the first place was the dearth of childrens’ books featuring black protagonists.

What’s your favourite book?
I have too many I love to pick just one. Among them would be V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

How long does it take for you to come up with a story idea?
I always have story ideas. I usually have about four or five on the go at once. The difficult (but exciting) task is to work out which one to do next.

Which of your books are you most proud of?
The ones that were risky in terms of their subject matter: the Noughts and Crosses series, Pig Heart Boy and Boys Don’t Cry. Also Cloud Busting because it was told entirely in narrative verse, which at the time was a lot more unusual than it is now.

And screen plays?
I enjoyed co-writing the Doctor Who: Rosa script with Chris Chibnall and the scripts I wrote for one of my books, Whizziwig which was shown on CITV.

How involved were you in the TV adaptation of Noughts & Crosses?
I was lucky enough to be quite involved in that I was sent all the scripts to read and comment on. The rough and fine cuts of each episode were sent to me for my observations. The production company also sent me audition tapes for some of the younger actors so I could give my feedback.

Do you base any of your characters on people you know?
The short answer is no – because I don’t want to get sued. I don’t even use the names of friends because they’ll always believe that you are writing about them, which I would never do!

Books, TV, radio and stage – which is the most challenging to write for?
They are all challenging but in different ways. Novels are a challenge as they are yours until you hand them over to an editor for feedback but scripts are collaborative from the outset.

What did you enjoy most as Children’s Laureate?
All the schools and places I visited nationwide and the people I got to meet. At the end of my two year tenure it was worked out that I had spoken to over 30,000 teens nationwide.

When not writing, what do you like doing?
Reading and playing the piano – badly. Plus I love watching films, going to the theatre, and playing computer games.

Your advice to aspiring young writers?
Write from the heart as well as the head. Care about what you write and write what you care about.

 

Write from the heart as well as the head. Care about what you write and write what you care about.

Which two books would you take to your desert island?
The complete, unabridged works of Jane Austen and Toni Morrison.

Any ideas for your next venture?
A number actually. Watch this space…

Motto for life?
Hold onto hope and never give up.



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