Natasha Farrant is the author of the newly published AFTER IRIS, which she refers to as “a family tragi-comedy for girls of all ages”. She also wrote teen war romance The Things We Did For Love, shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award, and two successful adult novels. She was born and raised in London, where she still lives with her husband, two daughters and a large tortoiseshell cat, and she has worked in children’s publishing for nearly twenty years.
Q. What books did you read when you were a child?
A. Blyton (in French), Nancy Drew (ditto), C S Lewis, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, westerns, detective stories and Greek and Roman myths.
Q. If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A. Anne Shirley, after Matthew and Marilla adopted her (her life before was too sad). She loves books, the countryside, the sea, she’s a daydreamer with a huge imagination but she also makes things happen. I love her.
Q. What is the best thing about reading?
A. Being able to live lots of different lives.
Q. What is your all time favourite book?
A. War and Peace. It just has everything – war, romance, a sweeping story. Just looking at it makes me feel like I’m in a different place.
Q. Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A. Talking to them and really listening. Trying to go beyond the everyday “put your shoes on eat your peas have you done your homework” to engage in proper conversation. Also expose them to adult conversation. In our house, this is best achieved around the dinner table.
Q. How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A. I come from a long line of readers. My grandmother was re-reading War and Peace for the third time a week before she died, and my father has read everything from Proust to Bridget Jones’ Diary. I inherited their passion for books from an early age. When I announced, also at an early age, that I wanted to be a writer, it was considered a completely normal aspiration, and they always made me believe I could do it. I think it’s the most important gift a parent can give their child: believing in them.
Q. How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A. My girls are teenagers now, so we don’t read so much together anymore, though I always take an interest in what they are reading. We’re lucky – they’ve inherited the “reading gene” and can’t get enough of books: my eldest’s book shelf collapsed last week under the weight of them! Books were a part of their lives from babyhood. We read to them every night, usually all in a heap in one of their beds. Working for a children’s publisher, I was bringing picture books home all the time and we’d get through a whole stack of them every evening. Then as they grew older and moved onto chapter books, we always tried to keep a balance between the books they wanted – tried and tested favourites like The Magic Faraway Tree, Rainbow Fairies and Animal Ark, and books which stretched them a little bit more, often because they were unfamiliar. I find children (my own included) are very quick to decide if a book is not for them. I try to encourage them to persevere beyond the first chapter, and they’ve found several new favourites amongst books they were initially suspicious of. But I would never force a child to read a book they didn’t like. It seems completely counter-productive.
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