Jamila Gavin was born in 1941 in India “in the foothills of the Himalayas”. Her father was Indian and her mother English, and her earliest memories are of travelling by sea between England and India. She came, with her family, to live permanently in England when she was twelve years old. Although she trained as a pianist and worked on music programmes for the BBC, she has become an author of books for children and young people. Her first book, The Magic Orange Tree, was published in 1979 and has been followed by a number of prize-winning publications. Coram Boy won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award in 2000; The Wheel of Surya was the runner up for the 1993 Guardian Newspaper Children’s Fiction Award. Jamila Gavin’s writing often explores issues of class and racism, historical themes and children’s identity and place in society.
1) What were your favourite books of 2015?
Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill; wonderfully illustrated by him, and full of great nerdy facts, like how many huskies he had to go to the Antarctic and all their names.
2) How long have you been writing?
I have loved writing stories and poems all my life, but I was first published in 1979 and have been writing ever since.
3) Where is your favourite place to write?
(Answer in poem form!)
My Favourite Place to Write Jamila Gavin
Scribbling, scribbling, anywhere, everywhere,
From Moscow to Delhi, Cairo to Samarkand.
Or sitting at dawn on the No 27 bus
Going down Marylebone Road before rush hour.
Never have my notebook to hand when I need it!
Scraps of paper suffice, or backs of old envelopes.
Even long supermarket receipts are repositories,
Of ecstatic inspirations or jumbling ideas.
Reminders of characters huddled on pavements,
Remarks overheard with a frown or a glance!
That little dropped stone in the pond of my consciousness
Rippling out as a novel or play.
But my favourite place to write?
Why my study of course, with its Big Bang of chaos;
My computer, my books and my dictionaries all.
My view from the window; my garden-half-wilderness,
And the green leafy calm of my five watchful sycamores.
4) Do you have any more novels planned for 2016?
Yes – I’m working hard on one now which I hope to finish by the end of the year – but it won’t be published till at least 2017. No title yet.
5) What is your favourite past-time?
Playing the piano. Would have said skiing too – but I haven’t been for about 3 years, and now I wonder if I ever will again.
6) Your most anticipated novel of 2016?
I’m waiting with great interest for the third of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy the first two being Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.
7) Which of your novels did you find hardest to write?
The one I’ve been battling with for 8 years, and it’s still not published, and may never be published, but I can’t give up on it yet.
Thank you so much to Jamila for taking part in this interview!
You can find her novel, Blackberry Blue, here