Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge is an author who won the Branford Boase First Novel award with her debut book Fly By Night, and was shortlisted for the Guardian award for its sequel Twilight Robbery. Her latest book A Face Like Glass is out now. Frances divides her time between London and Oxford. She grew up in a huge house that inspired her to write stories.

Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: My favourite stories were always the ones full of adventure, mystery and peril, rather than those set entirely at school or in everyday situations. I particularly loved Susan Cooper and Alan Garner for their books where the magical world existed alongside the mundane, and where ordinary kids (like me) might suddenly slip sideways into mysterious and exciting new realms. I was also addicted to Leon Garfield's historical adventures.

Q: If you could be a storybook character, who would you be?
A: I would like to be the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I'd love to be able to vanish leaving only a smile, just to weird people out.

Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: Opening a book is like stepping into a Tardis. Turn the right page, and you can be transported anywhere in space or time, and discover whole worlds that other people have created. It doesn't matter if the author lived a hundred years ago, their mind-world is still there, waiting for you to step into it and explore.

Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: That's a really difficult question, since I have about twenty favourites. The book I have re-read the most, however, is probably "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. It's a lot darker and more epic than you'd expect from a story about bunnies.

Q: Other than reading books, what is the most important thing a parent can do to develop their children's communication skills?
A: I would say that it is important to encourage them to write as well as read. It doesn't have to be fiction or poetry. Letters, emails, jokes, journals - they are all good practice.

Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: They played an extremely large part. Our house was always full of books, and when my sister and I were growing up our parents often read to us. I remember a lot of word-based games in our family as well, including Scrabble and an alphabetical game inexplicably called 'ghosts'. My sister and I often wrote stories, plays, songs and even tiny newspapers, and our parents were always very patient and encouraging when we dropped our latest scrawled offerings in their laps.

Q: How do you encourage your family to read?
A: My nephew is currently one year old, and reading picture books like "The Very Busy Spider" and "Elmer's Weather". So far my attempts to read with him have been limited to pronouncing words in a loud, squeaky voice, and trying to deter him from throwing the book into jam.

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