Leila Rasheed is the author of the delightful Bathsheba Clarice de Trop series for middle-grade readers, published by Usborne in the UK. Her books are written in diary form and are very popular among girls ages 9 to 12. Rasheed is currently very busy promoting her newly released Doughnuts, Dreams and Drama Queens: The Theatrical Third Diary of Bathsheba Clarice De Trop, the third book in the series. She holds a Master's Degree in Children's Literature and is a children's bookseller in Brussels, Belgium.
It's a pleasure having you here, Leila. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Okay, here are ten things about me…
1) My first pets were three white rats called Snap. Crackle and Pop. They lived on our balcony on the sixth floor, and one by one, mysteriously disappeared. My mother thinks a hawk was involved. I like to believe it was aliens.
2) Speaking of aliens, the last film I saw at the cinema was Star Trek. It was good but I didn’t think it was as amazing as everyone says it it.
3) Speaking of films, my favourite film is Bladerunner.
4) Speaking of Bladerunner, I used to want to be an archaeologist because of watching Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies.
5) Speaking of archaeology, I’ve been to Pompeii three times, and I still haven’t seen all of it – that place is BIG.
6) Speaking of threes, my third book comes out at the end of June, it’s called Doughnuts, Dreams and Drama Queens: The Theatrical Third Diary of Bathsheba Clarice De Trop.
7) Speaking of diaries, I know writers are supposed to keep diaries but I don’t. I’ve tried but I never managed it for more than a few days.
8) Speaking of things writers are supposed to do, I do write in cafes. I find the background noise relaxing but not distracting.
9) Speaking of distracting, the most distracting thing in the world for me is the internet.
10) And speaking of the internet, I’d like to say thank you Mayra for featuring this interview on your website!
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
When I was 13 I discovered that I loved writing stories, but I didn’t exactly decide I wanted to become an author, because for most of my life it seemed like an unattainable dream, something that only happened to special people. I just decided in my mid-twenties that I wanted to try and get a book published.
Tell us a bit about your middle grade series for girls. What was your inspiration for it?
The series is about a girl called Bathsheba – Bath for short. It’s written as if it’s her diaries. In the first book, Chips, Beans and Limousines, it initially appears that she’s really spoiled, but as you read between the lines you find out that actually the truth is quite different, and a more touching – but funny – story comes out. In the next two books, Socks, Shocks, and Secrets and Doughnuts, Dreams and Drama Queens, Bath changes her life completely, and has lots of new adventures. They’re funny books about daily life, family, and friendship for an extraordinary girl, but there is also a big helping of adventure.
Why do you think your novels are so popular with young girls?
I think girls like them because they feel emotionally honest. I think they’re very funny, and they have lots of exciting things happening, but at the same time, Bath is a child who really, in the first book, feels deeply unloved. I think children identify with her sadness and loneliness as well as her desire to be noticed. And I think they are really glad for her when she gets some friends and a kind of family who love her.
Are you a disciplined writer? What are your working habits?
I’m not very disciplined – I let unimportant things distract me. I am also often traveling, or moving, so I have trouble fixing regular habits for writing. I give myself deadlines – I say ‘I will write this series proposal by Friday,’ for example. And I am able to say ‘Today I will just work on my novel,’ and the next day go to work, or work on a critique or something. But working 9 to 1, for example, is not easy, because I share my house with someone who also works at home, and I don’t have a separate office – so I may want to start writing at 9, but if he’s still asleep I can’t start typing next to the bed.
Technically speaking, what comes more naturally to you when writing a novel? What do you have to struggle with the most?
That’s an interesting question. I think that voice comes easily to me, and concepts, ideas. I can write great beginnings. What’s difficult is not getting lost on the way through the book.
Do you have a website or blog where readers may learn more about you
and your work?
www.leilarasheed.com is my website
www.usborne.co.uk/bathsheba is all about the books
www.bookchildworld.wordpress.com is my writing blog for adults
What advice would you give to aspiring middle grade authors?
I have two good pieces of advice from famous authors. Ray Bradbury, the sci-fi author, said ‘Find out what your hero wants and then follow him’. In other words, know what the story’s about and keep that at the front of your mind. And I’m developing a new rule of thumb for writing called ‘What would Oswald do?’ which is based on the advice that the narrator of Edith Nesbit’s classic children’s book, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, gives at the start of Chapter Two.
The whole text is available free online: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/770
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Remember there are many different ways of reading fiction. Most readers read for sheer pleasure – they’re interested in whether they love a book or not. Literary critics read with theory in mind – they want to fit books into categories. But if you want to be a writer you have to read differently again. You have to read analytically, looking at how stories are put together, what makes them work, and asking yourself how you can use those techniques in your own writing.
You can compare it to different ways of looking at a chair. Most people are interested just in whether they like the chair, whether it’s comfortable and whether it fits in with their living room colour scheme. If you plan to write a book about chairs, though, you’d want to know what period the chair belongs to, whether it’s IKEA or Arts and Crafts, you’d want to know whether it was designed with a particular philosophy in mind. But if you want to make a chair, the best thing to do is take one to bits and have a good look at it from the inside out.
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