The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hilary McKay

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hilary McKay


Summary: Bookbag really enjoyed Hilary McKay's Wishing For Tomorrow (the sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Date: 26 October 2009
Interviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath

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Bookbag really enjoyed Hilary McKay's Wishing For Tomorrow (the sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Hilary McKay: Oh, dear, I have never done that. But (anything to oblige) I tried it just now. And what did I see? Not readers anyway. A glimpse of landscape, a flicker of a character passing by, but no readers. A pity; they would have been an interesting sight.

In the further interests of research I asked a musician (not having a writer handy) what he saw when he closed his eyes and imagined his audience. I am loading up the dishwasher, he replied. Or is it a trick question?

So he was no help.

  • BB: What was the motivation for writing a sequel to A Little Princess?

HM: I wrote Wishing For Tomorrow for several reasons. To answer the unanswered questions of what happened to the characters whose fates were left unresolved in A Little Princess. As a break from those blessed Cassons. Most of all, for fun. I loved writing it - I loved the minute, detailed world of Miss Minchin's Select Seminary and the people who lived in it.

  • BB: Were you nervous about the response from the public, given how much of a favourite the original is to so many people?

HM: Not nervous. That is too shivery a word. Slightly trepidatious (my spellcheck tells me that is not a word but I think it is too useful not to be). I did wonder. But then I thought, Oh well, they need not read it if they don't want to. And I need not take their opinions too much to heart. After all (let's keep this in perspective) it is only a rather short, rather frivolous little story. In the end.

  • BB: If you had to write a sequel to another classic, which would it be and why?

HM: The Lord of the Rings. And I would write it in order to sell the film rights.

HM: No, I do not miss them at all, and the reason I do not miss them is that I am at present engaged in writing a sixth book about that scatty crowd: Caddy's World.

  • BB: Is it hard for children's authors to get the same recognition as authors for adults?

HM: I suppose we do not get reviewed very much in comparison. But that is a great generalisation. J K Rowling and Philip Pullman don't do so badly. Perhaps we get the recognition we deserve.

  • BB: Which three books should every child read?

HM: That depends of course, entirely on the child. The closest I can come to a reply is three books that I am very glad that I read as a child. TH White's The Once and Future King. Eleanor Farjeon's The Little Book Room. Jane Gardam’s The Hollow Land (except for the last chapter).

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

HM: At the moment I am reading: Graham Swift's Waterland, Gilbert White's The Natural History of Selborne, Jilly Cooper's The Common Years.

  • BB: Which book has most influenced you, and do you still have a copy?

HM: There is no book that I have read and loved that I do not own. So how lucky am I?!

  • BB: What's next for Hilary McKay?

HM: A three book series for Scholastic about a little girl called Lulu, a friend of Charlie's. Caddy's World (see above). And of course, to fill in the odd moments, the Lord of the Rings sequel...

  • BB: Haha! Excellent. We can't wait to read all of those. Thanks a lot!

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