Please take the time to read this fantastic interview from Sue Wickstead; one of our Everyday People Books authors. Since publishing her books she has decided that there must always be a bus somewhere featured within it – as it is her unique logo! Amusingly she is also known as the ‘Lego Lady’ as she loves to play with it and even has custom made lego earrings! If you would like to meet her in the flesh, she will be signing and selling books in East Grinstead, West Sussex on the 22nd April at a bus rally / bus running day. For now though, we can’t wait to read more about her…

What made you start writing?
I have always written notes, stories, poems, diaries from a very early age. I also read a lot of children’s books especially with my children but I never had any aspirations to become a writer. I wanted to become a teacher, like my story-telling aunt, this I did. My current writing journey began with a playbus. When my children attended a playgroup on the playbus I had become involved with the charity and helped to publicise and promote the work the bus did. I collected photographs and put on displays, wrote articles, reports etc. in order to gain support and funding for the bus. It had been suggested that all the history of the bus should be put into a book. So, I left full-time teaching and took the time to write the photographic history book of the bus. The book is full of photographs and information that I had gathered over the years. With the book now in print, ‘Bewbush Playbus’, I returned to teaching as a cover/supply teacher. The children I met were fascinated to hear about the bus and asked lots of questions about it. What did it do? Why was it different? What was a playbus? This led to me to telling a story which eventually I wrote down. Fact to fiction, the bus journey continues. So, my writing came about from questions the children asked.

How old were you?
From a child I would write, in college I wrote poems, and in my class teaching I would write alongside the children or write an example text. My book ‘A Spooky Tale’ was a book initially written as a shared write with my class after we had been on a walk around the neighbourhood.

What is your book about?
My story books are about a Playbus. Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus: - Jay-Jay the bus is rescued from the dirty scrap yard, where he was sadly gathering dust and cobwebs. He is taken to an airport (Gatwick Airport) where he is transformed into a 'Playbus' full of toys, games and adventure. This is the fictional tale of the real-life bus 'Supersonic'. Its number plate, JJK261, gave the bus its name, Jay-Jay.
Jay-Jay and his Island Adventure: - In this book Jay-Jay is invited to an island where the children have never seen a double-decker bus - and certainly not one full of toys! This story is also based on a real bus, a book bus, which did indeed visit a small island on a tiny ferry.
Jay-Jay and the Carnival: - The Carnival was always a special event in the town for the real bus and in this story after a busy summer the bus is off on his journey to the carnival.
A Spooky Tale: - This story was written with my class when teaching and came about after we had been out on a walk exploring the local neighbourhood. The children helped me to write this story explaining why they did not want to go ... What could possibly go wrong? Why did the class not feel well?

Where did you get your ideas from?
The story writing came about from the children I met in school and in answer to their questions. Initially my books were told as a story. It also led me to writing other stories.

What do you find challenging in your writing?
Being self-published means that I have ownership but I have to also believe in myself. The promotion and marketing can be tricky.

Who and what has influenced you?
My aunts were always telling me stories and helping with my reading. One of my aunts was a teacher and she taught in both Lapland and Africa, I always loved hearing about her adventures.

Do you have a favourite book/ author?
My favourite book was by the author A.A. Milne. I loved Winnie the Pooh. I also love authors such as C.S. Lewis (Narnia); J.R.R.Tolkein (Middle Earth) and J.K.Rowling (Hogwarts), I suppose it is the escapism and the magical themes in the books. But there are many books I love for other different reasons it is hard to pin point just the one. I always loved the pictures in any story book and I loved reading with my two children.

Why do you love reading?
I am pleased to say that I am ‘A Patron of Reading’. I love reading all types of books. I especially loved sharing books with my children when they were growing up. My favourites were always the picture books as the words and pictures tell so much. I also loved traditional tales because they were always the same story but told in a variety of ways.

How many books have you written?
I have now published four children’s stories with another in the pipeline. I have also written draft ideas and plans for a further six or more books but they will progress slowly and carefully as time and money allows.

How many books would you like to write?
I would like to eventually get all of my planned books published. But most of all I like to share them with children.

Are you working on a book at the moment? What is it about?
I have another book currently being illustrated and it too is a bus story. Jay-Jay does appear but the book is called ‘Daisy Daydream’. I am also working on a Christmas book which I wrote for my class many years ago when teaching.

What are your future plans?
I would like to get my books polished and written. In addition, I would like to get my chapter book written. The chapter book is still a story I tell when in school to the classes I meet. It is a story about the rain and my rain-sticks, I think it may end up being called ‘the Weather witch’ and will hopefully have information and links to other stories. The story does seem to have a few twists and turns and it is still growing! Yes, it does connect to my bus journey. The story is also changing in light of events and questions as well as suggestions from the children I meet.

What is your favourite part of being an author?
My favourite part is being able to share my books with the children I meet as I cover in classes in my role of a cover/supply teacher. I love the reactions of the children who always ask questions and want to know more. I also like being able to let the children see that an author, like myself, is just an ordinary person. Well I am.

How long did it take you to write your book?
The first story book took me two years to write and then a further year to finally take the courage and publish myself.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Believe in yourself. Make sure you have an editor and listen to advice. A good illustrator helps too.

We are running a competition where children can write a story which will be made into a book. Do you have any advice you can give to the children?
Plan your story and don’t be afraid to change it. Never rub out any mistakes just put a line through it in case you want to use this in another appropriate or suitable place or even use in another story sometime. Write in long hand and when you want to polish write in best or use the computer.

As part of our competition we also need an illustrator. Who was your illustrator and how important were they in the production of your book?
Initially I drew my own story board to help to tell the story. However, I knew my illustrations, despite the children saying they were good, were not professional enough. I was asked what style of illustration I might like., I only knew that Jay-Jay was a real bus and I wanted the illustration to reflect this. I wanted the bus to be real and it is. Any bus enthusiast can tell, by looking at the illustration, that the bus is an AEC Regent model bus and the number plate tells that it was an Eastbourne bus. True.

When you are not writing how do you like to relax?
I tell the children I teach that I play with my ‘Lego’, indeed I do. I wear Lego ear-rings to school and am known as the Lego Lady! I like that. I also do a lot of crochet, and enjoy walking, reading and spending time with my family.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Since publishing my books I realised that there must always now be a bus somewhere in any book, it will be my Logo.