M.G. Leonard

What books did you read when you were a child?
I was a big reader. I read tonnes of Enid Blyton books, my favourites were the Famous Five adventures. I also loved Roald Dahl, particularly The Twits and Georges Marvelous Medicine.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I’d be Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking and live in Villa Villekulla with a pet monkey.

What is the best thing about reading?
Opening a book, stepping out of yourself and entering the imagination zone, where anything is possible.

What is your all time favourite book?
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I love the story, characters, descriptions of nature, and the Englishness. I was Ratty in a school play, and the first show I ever saw at the National Theatre was Alan Bennett’s adaptation of the book.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Talk to children like they are people, rather than children. Ask them their opinions on topical events and answer their questions truthfully, never sugar coat the truth. My oldest son isn’t a big reader, but he has a surprisingly varied vocabulary because we converse often.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My parents weren’t that interested in my writing skills. I come from a large family that was often dysfunctional. However, I joined an amateur dramatics society at the age of eight, and there were some wonderful grown-ups there who encouraged and praised me, and they gave me the confidence to embrace language from A.A. Milne to Shakespeare. It became my special thing, and I’ve used it to define myself ever since.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I try hard not to force my ten-year-old son to read anything he’s not naturally drawn to, as I want him to discover the joy of reading for himself, and I’m not concerned about how long that takes. I regularly take him to bookshops for outings, and ask him to tell me what looks good and why. Once in a while I’ll give him a crisp ten-pound note and tell him he can chose something. Usually he’ll read something he’s picked himself, where as if I choose something for him it sits on the shelf. The moment he shows a genuine interest in a book, I will happily buy him another by the same author and tell him so. Right now, he loves Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates books, they make him laugh out loud.

M.G. Leonard’s debut children’s book Beetle Boy is out now. She spent her early career in the music industry running an independent record label. After leaving the music industry, she trained as an actor, dabbling in directing and producing as well as performing, before deciding to write her stories down. Leonard lives in Brighton with her partner and two sons. Beetle Boy is her debut novel – she wrote the first draft in just six months!

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