A Q&A with the author Bea Davenport on her latest novel The Misper

Bea’s first novel The Serpent House was written during her Creative Writing PhD at Newcastle University. Her tutors were Jackie Kay, the award-winning poet and writer, and Professor Kim Reynolds, an internationally-renowned expert in children’s literature.

In its early, unpublished form, The Serpent House was shortlisted for The Times/Chicken House award.

The Misper was longlisted in a Mslexia Writing for Children competition and is published by The Conrad Press.
Bea has also written two crime novels for adults, In Too Deep and This Little Piggy, and teaches journalism and creative writing.

She lives near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with her partner and children.

Describe The Misper in one sentence?
Anna and Zoe turn to magic to try to shake off their geeky friend Kerry – but they should’ve been careful what they wished for.

Who’s your favourite character in the novel?
Anna’s the nicest of the three. But I have a massive soft spot for troublesome Zoe. She’s so bright and so prickly.

Shakespeare or Dickens?
Both, of course! But if I have to choose, George Eliot.

Favourite author?
I can never answer this as I don’t have a single favourite. I have a huge long list and it changes from week to week. At the moment Neil Gaiman is very near the top of the list but it’s very often the last author I read.

Favourite character from a book?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Pippi Longstocking. I like a free spirit!

Prefer books or the film adaptations?
Always, always books! It’s not that there aren’t some fantastic film adaptations, as there are, but if I was on a desert island I’d rather it had a library than a cinema.

If you weren’t an author, you would be…
I was a journalist for many years and that was a fun job. And I’ve always liked the idea of playing a baddie character in a TV soap.

Favourite place/setting to read a book?
On holiday, anywhere in the sun. That way I don’t get the niggling feeling I should be working instead of reading.

What inspired you to write your book?
A couple of things: When I was very little, I remember the excitement of organising a Halloween party and that was the starting point for the story – but then it got darker and darker, so it needed to be for older readers than I first intended. But also, I’ve seen what it is like to feel on the outside edge of a friendship group and I also know what it’s like when someone tags onto you that you don’t really want around. So I wanted to explore friendship dynamics.

If you had a dinner party what three authors or characters from literature would you invite?
First would be Edith Nesbit, author of the first ever historical time fantasy for children (The Story of the Amulet). I’d love to ask her about the genre she started and the way it’s so popular today. I’d invite Dorothy Parker to make everyone laugh. Finally I’d invite Mary Poppins, so that she could magic us up a feast and clear it up at the end with a click of her fingers.

When did you start writing?
Like most writers, I scribbled stories from the age of about eight or nine. They were just bad versions of Enid Blyton’s adventure tales. I carried on writing while working as a journalist, but I only had the courage to show anyone my writing a few years ago.

How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on the book and a lot of other factors. My first crime novel for adults took a few years, because I only got the chance to write now and again while working and having young children. The second adult novel only took a few months! The Misper took about a year to write the first draft but it’s been through a zillion changes, so all in all, I guess it took three or four years.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I’m a typical journalist – I love listening to what people say and to what they don’t say, and I’m always on the spy for story ideas. There’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t find myself thinking, ‘Oooh! There’s a good story idea…’

Do you base your characters on people you know?
Not deliberately! But I think all writers use little bits of people they’ve met and weave them together to make a composite character. My partner spotted the character of Tom in The Serpent House doing something that he regularly does. Fortunately he didn’t mind me pinching his actions to use in the book!

To read an extract and to see what the Lovereading.co.uk editorial expert thought click here.

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