What books did you read when you were a child?
I devoured The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield and anything by Enid Blyton. My dad bought me an old copy of The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton he’d found in a second-hand book shop some years before, and it was the best present ever.
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Lucy Pevensie from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – as I love her affinity with animals and adventurous nature. Alternatively, Jo March from Little Women.
What is the best thing about reading?
I’ve heard that reading can reduce stress levels by around 70% and works more quickly than other types of relaxation. When I read, I’m transported to a different time and place which is massively calming.
What is your all time favourite book?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I read this book many times from about the age of ten and each time I was devastated that Jo and Laurie did not end up together. I often wished I could re-write that part myself.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Talking! When our children were small, we’d spend hours in parks and on country walks and we’d encourage them to chat to us about the world around them.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A huge part. I was encouraged to keep a diary from when I was quite young, and I carried on writing one well into my late teens. I also wrote stories and was runner-up in a national story competition when I was eight.
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Even when our children didn’t feel like a story, we’d look at a picture book of their choice, like the excellent You Choose by Nick Sharatt and Pippa Goodhart. We’d encourage them to make up their own stories based on the pictures which definitely helped get them interested in books and reading.
In 2015 A.M. Howell was one of 15 writers selected to take part in a Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children course tutored by Catherine Johnson. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and two children and when she’s not writing she loves nothing more than curling up with a good book. Her favourite children's authors include Emma Carroll, Katherine Rundell and Lucy Strange. She also loves long walks in the countryside, swimming and drinking lots of tea!
A.M. Howell’s debut middle-grade historical mystery, The Garden of Lost Secrets, is published by Usborne on 13 June 2019.