This week we talk to international best-selling author, Amanda Prowse
(CONTENT WARNING: Mention of mental health and depression)
Q: Hi Amanda Prowse, how are you doing? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I think it’s fair to say that I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING! I’m sure I’m not alone in being glad to see the back of 2020. I’m hoping to return to normality, with stability and kindness learned from living through tough times. Doing the small things that are actually the big things. Hugging and kissing the people I love. Visiting those I miss and sitting in their kitchen to swap life stories face to face. Travelling! I don’t want to jump on a plane, but to drive to Birmingham to look at the architecture or to Northumberland to walk on the coast – that’s where I’ll be heading.
Q: You became an author relatively late. Why did you decide to write?
Yes, I was 42 when my first book Poppy Day came out. I always wanted to write, but three things held me back. First, I didn’t know if I could do it well enough. Second, I didn’t have the confidence. Third, life got in the way, and I could never seem to find the time! After I became poorly, I realised this was my one time around the block, and it gave me the confidence to start. I’m a great example of how it is never, ever too late to follow your dream.
Q: Since Poppy Day, you’ve had 25 books published in a decade. How do you keep up this incredible pace?
I’m very fortunate in that my books come to me fully formed in a matter of seconds. This happened to me even when I was a child. Weird, I know. I didn’t realise this doesn’t happen to everyone until I mentioned it on a radio show and received strange stares from the rest of the panel. I can hear a piece of music, see an image or hear a word, and it’s like a story is being downloaded into my mind. Then, all I have to do is write it down, which I can do very quickly.
The first time I read the book is when it’s finished, and I print off a copy to give it a brief edit. I have way more stories than I could ever write in my lifetime, so I have to pick the one I like best at that moment in time, and that’s the one I write.
Q: Your success has taken you into the world of celebrity. Does your writing keep you grounded?
I think it’s best to answer this question with a little anecdote: I was about to go on breakfast TV in Australia and was standing in the studio wings in full hair and makeup, and the place was buzzing. My phone rang, and it was my son. I answered his call, and he said,
“I can’t find any clean pants!”
I whispered back, “Try the airing cupboard”.
“Ok, erm… are they on top of the washing machine?”
“No, mum! And we’re nearly out of milk…”
A producer then pushed me onto the set, and I did the interview about my latest book, but it made me laugh as it sums up my life. I am a wife and mum first. More often than not, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what to cook for tea and whether everyone has clean pants! I am an author second. Appearing on TV and radio is lovely, but it’s not my real life – my real life is what happens behind the front door, and I wouldn’t swap that life for the world!
Q: You’re known primarily as a women’s fiction writer, but you have written about mental illness. How did that come about?
Our youngest son Josh suffers from depression. It’s a road we walk with him, and it can feel lonely. Josh and I wrote the book we wish had been there for us in the wee small hours when desperation came knocking, and we were in want of answers. The Boy Between is the book I am proudest of because I know how much it took for Josh to write it.
Q: In your opinion, what is the role of education in the emotional development of children?
I used to think education meant academic study. As a mum to two boys, one severely dyslexic and with depression that affected him in the classroom at a young age, I can see that it is so much more. In my opinion, education should be about shaping kind, informed, tolerant citizens of the world. We know that empathy and justice germinate in toddlers and the foundations laid in primary education.
If I could have one wish for the future role of education, it would be a greater understanding that mental health issues start young. I would love to see a more holistic curriculum that focuses as much on self-esteem and mental well-being as on academic topics.
Q: 1 in 8 schools across Britain do not have a library – have you had experience of the educational inequality within the school system or met anyone who has?
What a horrifying statistic. I grew up in a house without any books. My parents had me when they were very young. They were too busy to sit and read to me as they worked several jobs to look after us all! Libraries were my lifeline, my educators and my friends. I have often said that one of the best days of my life was when I was given my first library ticket and told I could take books home and, when I’d read them, I could go back for more! It was the greatest gift.
My life would be so very different without access to libraries. When I hear of schools without libraries and library closures, I weep. It is a cruel injustice that those who need books most – kids like me – are denied the opportunity. I would go as far as to say that it is criminal.
Q: What book or books do you think all children in schools should be given to read?
Dr Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go – I gift this book to adults and children alike. Its rhyme is divine, the illustration lovely, and the message vital: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” It is empowering, motivational and simple.
Q: Ok, so the final question, Amanda Prowse – if all the libraries in the world were burning and you could only save three books, what would they be and why?
Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd – the beauty and poetry of his work are summed up perfectly in this incredible novel.
Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds – the book that took me from under the quilt, where I read with a torch, and placed me in the wilds of Australia. The first book that made me fully understand the power of a story and lit the kindling of my desire to write.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – technically, it’s not one book, but I can’t let any of them burn. Everything you need to know about life, adversity and perseverance is within these book covers. They will make you laugh until you cry, and the collective tears of the world might help douse those darned flames.
Thank you for visiting our blog. Our vision here at Books2All is a world where every child finds the books that help them reach their true potential. If you have spare books in good condition at home that you think might be appropriate for school children, please sign up for our app’s pre-release waiting list. If you represent a school, please register to receive books for your students.