Author Interview with Gill Lewis
After realising her childhood dream of becoming a vet, Gill Lewis worked in the UK and overseas, everywhere from Africa to the Arctic. Gill’s books for children – Sky Hawk, White
Dolphin, Moon Bear, Scarlet Ibis, Gorilla Dawn and Story Like the Wind - all published to critical acclaim and have been translated into many languages. Lewis won the Little Rebels Award in 2015 for Scarlet Ibis, won the prestigious Environmental Prize for Children's Literature in Germany for Moon Bear and has twice won the US Green Earth Book Award.
Obviously, your love for animals influences your writing. What else would you say inspires you and the way you write?
I’m fascinated by people too. My books are not just about animals, but also about humans and our relationship with each other and also the natural world. Much of my research brings me into contact with people who look after the wild places. Landscapes inspire me, not just the rugged wild places but also city-scapes and how some wildlife has adapted to living in the urban jungle.
As a child, you dreamed of becoming a vet. At the time, did you ever think you would also become an author?
I loved making up stories and illustrating them, but I never thought I could be a real author because my spelling and grammar were poor and my handwriting was untidy. At primary school we had lots of fun creating and writing stories, but at secondary school the big red marker pen crossed big lines over my work and we did no creative writing at all, and so any ambitions of being an author were put on hold.
When did you decide to start writing books?
I re-discovered my love of story-telling after having my own children. I read them books from the library and made up my own stories to tell them and wrote them down. It took me about six years and many publishers’ rejection letters later to become a published author.
After everything you have already achieved in your career, what would you say is your proudest moment?
That’s hard to say, because there have been so many fascinating and inspiring people I have been privileged to meet. I think most of all, I love hearing from people who tell me that one of my books has inspired them or someone they know to read more, or if my books have inspired them to do something to protect the natural world.
Sky Dancer is a novel that will empower children to take a stand on environmental issues. Do you think it is important for children to tackle these issues from a young age?
Yes, it’s vital that children tackle these issues from a young age, whether it is a local issue or a global one. We know that the natural world is under threat as never before from habitat destruction, wildlife crime and pollution to name a few causes. There are many young people already making a difference, having their voices heard, and we will need more of them to tackle big businesses and cooperate greed for resources and land.
Who are some of your favourite authors? Did they inspire you to write?
I think most of the inspiration for my stories comes from the people I have met on my travels or during my research for my books. My favourite childhood authors include Paul Gallico (Snow Goose), Richard Adams Watership Down), Henry Williamson (Tarka the Otter) and Herge’s Adventures of Tintin. Some of my favourite modern day children’s authors include Nicola Davies, Kate Di Camillo, Abi Elphinstone, Victoria Eveleigh, Julia Green, MG Leonard, Jackie Morris, Lauren St John, Piers Torday,
With work, you have been lucky enough to travel all over the world and see so many incredible things. Do you have a favourite destination to travel to?
That’s really hard to say, because there are so many fascinating places. I loved the humidity and green density of the forests in Costa Rica, and the open seascapes of icebergs in Greenland. But I think the landscape that I love the most is the estuary landscape on the north of the Gower in Wales. My father grew up there and we spent many childhood summers on his small boat on the estuary. I love the changing patterns of light on the water, and the different animals that come and go with the tide. Estuaries are often wild uninhabited places too, even when they are quite close to towns and cities.
If you could go back in time and give yourself any advice about your first book, what would you say to yourself?
I think I would go further back in time to my childhood self and tell the younger me not to worry about the messy handwriting and the poor spelling. I would tell myself that the idea is more important, to embrace it and run with it and keep writing and writing. I would also tell myself that the first draft of a story is messy and unruly. It’s like a lump of clay you have to mould and work at to find the shape the story. Writing is rewriting.
If you could give one bit of advice to all our young authors reading, what would it be?
Write the story you want to read.
Get your hands on one of our 5 copies of Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis by leaving a comment in the comment box below! Five winners will be announced on Monday 9th October at 2pm.
Well done to our three giveaway winners Lydia Graham, Allie Woodward and Hafsah Saleem.