There are so many reasons why I write children’s fiction. Perhaps the simplest thing to say is that this is how my writing comes out. I certainly didn’t start off intending to write for a juvenile audience. In fact the first story I had published was for adults but somewhere along the line, I found that writing for children was what I was best at.
I got my first book published when I was thirty one and working as a school teacher, dealing with young people all day. By this time I also had children of my own. These were the days before the government introduced a national curriculum into Britain, so teachers had a lot more flexibility in what they taught. I used to read a lot of fiction with my classes, inspired by the school librarian, a slightly eccentric woman who seemed very old to me (she was in her fifties - the age I am now) but surprisingly young in her outlook. Almost obsessively keen on Young Adult and Children’s Fiction, she was always prompting me to read new books and pretty soon she had me as hooked on the genre as herself.
At the same time I was reading books for a younger audience with my own children every night. So I was utterly immersed in the world of children and in the literature written for them. One day I had a eureka moment. I was reading a book of short stories called The Goalkeeper’s Revenge by Bill Naughton. I suddenly saw how the author’s use of voice was the critical factor that made the whole narrative possible. Through voice he created character, setting and dramatic possibility all at the same time. I saw immediately that I could do the same thing. That realisation was the start of my novel.
Becoming a children’s writer then was more a matter of accident than a deliberate choice. It sprung from my experience at the time and that is probably the best way to derive your inspiration – from the world around you. If I were asked by an aspiring author to give him or her advice on how to choose which audience to write for, what genre or what form to adopt, I would say only this: don’t waste your time pushing on a locked door, look for the door that is unlocked and simply waiting for the touch of your hand to open. It’s out there somewhere.
Brian Keaney has written seventeen novels for young people. His latest book, The Magical Detectives, will be published by Orchard Books in July 2010