Meet the author: Robin Stevens

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Robin Stevens. We speak to her as she prepares to release one of World Book Day’s 2020 books followed by the final adventure in her award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series.

Meet the author: Robin Stevens
Photo: Chris Close 2018

Born in California but raised in Oxford, Robin Steven’s love for murder mysteries began when her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie at 12 years old.

Regrettably, Robin never got to do any detecting herself, however, she did continue to write crime fiction, creating the world of Murder Most Unladylike. For World Book Day, she’s sending her super-sleuthing character duo, Daisy and Hazel, off to the beach in The Case of the Drowned Pearl to uncover the murder of a famous swimmer.

It’s almost a decade on from when she first had the idea of Murder Most Unladylike – which won the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the younger fiction category – and this summer Robin will be rounding off the MMU series with Daisy and Hazel’s most epic and dangerous case yet.

We grabbed Robin in between her busy schedule to speak about her favourite book, the best writing advice she’s ever been given, and which fictional character she’d spend the day with.

Which children’s writer do you most admire and why?

Diana Wynne Jones. Her books showed me for the first time how very real a made-up character could seem. I wanted to be friends with all of her protagonists when I was a child (and I still do), and her fantasy plots swept me up in the magic and other worlds. She’s my hero!

What was your dream job when you were young?

Being a children’s author! I have been telling stories since I could speak, and writing them down since I could write. I’ve always wanted to write the kind of stories that I loved as a child, which of course were children’s books. I feel so incredibly lucky that I’ve grown up to actually live my dream.

Tell us about a children’s book you’ve reread many times.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg (yes, that’s its full title). It’s about a girl who runs away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It’s a mystery, it’s an escape fantasy (who doesn’t want to leave their ordinary life behind to live in an interesting place?) and it’s a beautifully written story – every time I reread it, I love it more.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

You can’t edit a blank page. It’s infuriatingly true.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read this year?

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (yes, I cheated and chose a 2019 book, but 2020 has only just begun!). It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s mysterious and it’s wonderfully murderous. I loved it.

What inspired you to write your book?

I started reading murder mysteries when I was 12 years old (Agatha Christie, of course) and I loved them – but I always wished there were more kids in them. Then I went to boarding school… and Murder Most Unladylike was born!

What’s your ideal reading scenario?

Lying in a hammock in the shade on a sunny summer day.

If you could spend the day with a fictional children’s character, who would it be and why?

Chrestomanci, the magician from Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasy series. He can travel between worlds, so he’d take me to see dragons, mermaids and magic.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The way that my characters have moved from my own mind into the minds of my readers until they believe in them as clearly as I do. It feels a lot like magic.

If a genie could grant you three book-related wishes, what would you wish for?

The ability to go to Narnia and never have to leave (unless I wanted to); the ability to read the sequel to I Capture the Castle; the ability to meet Daisy and Hazel in real life.

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