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Talking with Jenny Nimmo

Children’s author Jenny Nimmo studied theater when she was young. As a teenager, she read lots of plays and began writing them, as well. “When you write plays, you have to put atmosphere in the words,” she says. She now realizes that the early reading and writing of plays helped her develop an ear for dialogue. “But at the time, when I took my plays to the director, he would just laugh, and I thought I’ll never be a playwright.”

This created a happy situation for children’s books as Nimmo has written three books in her Magician Trilogy and will soon finish her seventh Charlie Bone adventure, a series that greatly pleases Harry Potter fans. Writing children’s books satisfies her. “You have to take a lot of care with what you write. You’re writing for people who have not been long at reading, so it’s important to write directly and get the atmosphere correct.”

Nimmo’s experience of raising children has been filled with a bit of the magic that colors her fiction. Nia, the main character of EMLYN’S MOON, hears and internalizes the refrain “Nia can’t do nothing.” Nia was inspired by Nimmo’s daughter. “At age 8 or 9, my daughter wasn’t enjoying school very much, but she was wonderful with art.” Nimmo gave this artistic gift to her fictional character, and at the end of the book Nia wins a school prize and begins to believe that she might truly be able to do something in the world. An extraordinary thing happened to Nimmo’s daughter before the book’s release--she entered a collage in an arts festival. Both Nimmo and her daughter were floored when, like the fictional Nia, she won first prize.

Nimmo is now working on the penultimate book of her Charlie Bone series, a book transformed by talking to her children. Nimmo found that she wrote about her children when they were young. Her dyslexic son was the model for Gwyn, the protagonist of the Magician Trilogy. When he grew to his teen years, he told her that he hadn’t liked how Gwyn felt so different and lonely. Her response was to change her focus and create a character for children--Charlie Bone. A student at Bloor Academy, a school for the magically inclined, he’s a bit different but has friends who also have strange talents.

Nimmo’s writing in the Magician Trilogy echoes the Welsh language and embraces Welsh myths. She feared both might be strange to people not from Wales. She was used to hearing her book with a Welsh accent, and at first it was odd to her to hear John Keating’s reading. “But I soon found that his Celtic intonation works really well. I think his reading makes the work very accessible. It brings both the language and story back to earth while still preserving the magic.”--Susie Wilde

© AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine

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