The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Jackie Martin

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Jackie Martin

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Summary: Here at Bookbag we enjoyed Burglar Boy, a positive and uplifting story about a boy with a good heart but in the worst of circumstances. It was good to have the opportunity to talk to Jackie Martin.
Date: 15 August 2011
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Here at Bookbag we enjoyed Burglar Boy, a positive and uplifting story about a boy with a good heart but in the worst of circumstances. It was good to have the opportunity to talk to Jackie Martin.

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

Jackie Martin: Sensitive souls and animal lovers looking for a stimulating story that will leave them on a high.

  • BB: You have worked as an entertainer, a teaching assistant and a private tutor. Did you ever consider writing for adults, or was it children all the way?

JM: Children all the way.

  • BB: What inspired you to write Burglar Boy?

JM: I was inspired by an angry, neglected little boy I used to know, who, when he was playing truant from school, used to go round burgling local homes. My aim was to create a story that would make this unloved character lovable, to provoke empathy for him and to transform his destiny. I drew on my own childhood experiences and observations of other real-life characters - and case studies from my psychology degree.

  • BB: Dean is a lovable child faced with huge challenges. Do you know any children like him?

JM: I have known many children like Dean - strugglers in our education system, disaffected, hateful and rebellious - destined to become rioters - unemployable adults and life-long criminals.

But some of these children, if you can win their hearts and minds early enough, become contented and valued members of society.

  • BB: Does everyone need a guardian angel?

JM: Everyone would benefit from believing they had one.

  • BB: If you could wave a magic wand, what one thing would you do to help children like Dean?

JM: Provide each with a mentor who would acknowledge his hardships, value the child, invest in his education to encourage empathy for his victims and others, to encourage remorse and create bountiful opportunities for that child to make amends.

  • BB: Where and how do you write?

JM: At home on a laptop whenever I have spare time. Burglar Boy took me years to write.

I originally wrote it in the first person with Dean describing his view of the world, but I was advised by Cornerstones' editorial to put it in the third person, which I did with greater success.

The real 'Dean' was barely intelligible, so, for ease of reading, I just hinted at his mispronunciations. Readers can guess a lot of his thoughts and emotions through descriptions of his body language and circumstances. His more sophisticated imaginings were expressed through the narrator, but I also wanted to show the reader what Dean's inner voice was actually saying at poignant moments, literally getting inside his head and often revealing irony:

...Mingers!
...Nosy as well as nasty, fat an' ugly!
...I'm gonna punch that grin off 'is smug rosy face.

  • BB: Who are your favourite authors and which has influenced you most?

JM: James Herriot wrote brilliantly amusing stories from real-life experiences.

I love Michael Morpurgo for the beautiful messages in all his stories.

I love Roald Dahl's writing style, making the reader smile in the 'Twits' and 'Matilda'.

But the most influential author for me has been Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, finding humour and charm even in the most desperate of situations.

  • BB: What three books should every child read?

JM: Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt Dog Stories - James Herriot War Horse - Michael Morpurgo.

  • BB: What's next for Jackie Martin?

JM: I'm about to do a course to qualify as a primary school teacher. I have written a thriller for older children, about death and destiny - with a feisty heroine this time - and characters that all speak properly - but it might take a few more years for this novel to see the light of day.

  • BB: Thank you for talking to us, Jackie.

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