Any Questions? An afternoon with Robin Stevens

We had the incredible opportunity to interview the amazing author Robin Stevens. It was our first interview and we were really nervous before meeting her, but she was so kind and funny that we all relaxed. We discovered that she has always wanted to be an author and we found it awesome that she wrote her first book when she was three (although it was only scribbles).

Robin Stevens hasn't only written the 'Murder most unladylike' series, but also the sequel to 'The London Eye mystery' written by the late Siobhan Dowd. As Siobhan only had time to write the title ('The Guggenheim Mystery'), the only thing Robin knew was that the story had to be set in New York; she invented everything else. As well as this, she really had to adapt her style because Ted - the main character and narrator in Siobhan Dowd's books - writes in a completely different way to Hazel - in 'Murder most Unladylike'

Here is everything else Robin Stevens told us:

Q: Why did you decide to write books for children?

A: I write books for children 8+ because those were the books I myself really fell in love with. The Narnia books, Eva Ibbotson and Enid Blyton were some of my favourites. So when I think of the kind of stories I want to tell, I think of books for that age group. When you write for children, you have to make every word gripping because you can't have a page where nothing happens otherwise the children would put it down and just go away. When the Harry Potter books came out I followed them and because I was a year older than Harry at that point, I grew up with him.

Q: What was your favourite book when you were our age?

A: I think probably Diana Wynne Jones's 'Charmed Life.'

Q: How do you come up with your ideas for murder mysteries?

A: I love reading Murder mysteries and listening or watching them. I'm always looking for more books about murder I can read to use those plots and mix them all up for my own murder mysteries.

Q: When you write do you usually know the end before you start writing?

A: Yes, definitely, I always plan everything out before I start. I only start writing when I have all the information to create a mystery.

Q: How many drafts do you usually have to do?

A: For the new book [which is supposed to be published in the summer], I did a first draft. It took me about 3 months and I wrote about 2000 words every day. I then sent that to my editor who came back with loads of notes and additional ideas. After that, I seriously redrafted a lot over the next two months. I sent it back to her again and she gave me more notes. I've just sent her the third draft which is going to be copy-edited, then it is going to be proof-read for spellings. In total, it is usually around four drafts, and it takes me about a year from the first draft to getting the book published.

Q: When did you write your first story/book?

A: I wrote my first story when I was 3; however, I obviously couldn't write then. I just scribbled on paper, convinced writing was something that happened through telepathy. I wrote my first real book when I was 16 but it was never published. I finished 'Murder Most Unladylike' when I was 22 or 23 but it was only published four years later in 2014.

Q: Where did you first think of your characters and setting?

A: The idea of 2 girls solving a mystery at their boarding school actually first came to me in the shower whilst thinking about friends.

Q: Do you base your characters on people you know?

A: Sort of. Daisy and Hazel are based on groups of people such as friends from my school and the adults are a combination of the characteristics of people I have met. For example, I once met someone who told me everything about themselves that I didn't need to know but I was so fascinated by the fact that someone could just talk for so long so one of my characters is based on that.

Q: Did you always know what Daisy and Hazel would be called?

A: Yes. Hazel was always Hazel Wong but I ended up changing Daisy's last name to Wells.

Q: Have you ever solved a mystery yourself?

A: I've solved small mysteries. For example, when I was at university, my friend and I discovered that someone had been eating all our chocolate ice cream. One day, we decided to hide under the table, waiting until the culprit came along to feast on some of our ice cream... They tried to explain themselves by saying they had mistaken it for their own but we had caught them red-handed. Luckily, I have never had to solve a murder.

Q: Do you prefer Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot?

A: They're quite different but I love them both. I love Sherlock Holmes as a character and I think he's a lot like Daisy. When I made up Daisy I wanted her to be a Sherlock Holmes sort of character; somebody really clever who doesn't care about people very much. Hercule Poirot is a lot more like Hazel; he's much nicer and thoughtful and his method of detection is more like sitting there and eating some cake and thinking about the problem. I think I prefer Poirot which is why I like Hazel a bit more.

Q: When do you think of the title for your books?

A: It's so hard. That's why we usually think of it at the end. My editor and I are on the ninth book and we can't repeat any titles. It usually takes us months to think of.

Q: Which book was the hardest one to write?

A: I think they are all hard in different ways but maybe Top Marks for Murder' was most difficult because it was the third one set at school and it was hard to think of who would make a good murder victim. But then I obviously thought of the parents.

Q: Why will Murder Most Unladylike Book 9 coming out be the last one?

A: Mostly because Daisy and Hazel are growing up and turning into young women but also because I've spent 10 years with Daisy and Hazel which is a third of my life. I think I want to end that chapter and maybe start something new.

We are very thankful for the time Robin Stevens spent with us. We really enjoyed it; it was fun and very inspiring! We can't wait to discover what she will be doing next.

Helene, Emma, Robin Stevens, Philippe, Louise (from left)

If you haven't already, try out the 'Murder Most Unladylike Quiz':

See also the Robin Stevens book review section:

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