It’s unusual to be completely thrown by a question from the audience, but a teenager in the audience at my most recent event managed to do just that.
The event was the Hay Festival, my fellow panellists were Sally Nicholls and Anne Cassidy and the question was this: ‘If you could be any other writer, who would you be?’
‘Homer,’ said Sally, for his wonderful stories and use of language. ‘J K Rowling,’ said Anne, ‘just think of the money.’
I mumbled something about Shakespeare, but it wasn’t really true, and over the last few weeks I’ve been wondering which writer I should have picked. Anne Tyler, whose novel ‘The Accidental Tourist’ is written so beautifully that I have line-envy on every page? Antonia Forest, because then I’d know more about the Marlows, possibly my favourite family in children’s fiction? Hilary McKay for creating the Casson family, who run the Marlows a close second? Lauren Child, because I’d love to have her visual imagination? Jodie Picoult or Joanna Trollope, because I feel I could do what they do, but then I wouldn’t have to do it and I’d have all their royalties.
No. The answer, I realised was simple. I write because I like to create my own stories. I don’t want to write other people’s books or plays, even if they are more lucrative than mine, win more awards, are better written. I don’t want to be another writer, is what I should have said. I just want to work on being an even better version of me.
How about you? Is there an author you’d like to be?