Detectives, Desperados and Dr No: Caroline Lawrence at the Abingdon Joint Author event 2015

Yesterday nearly 600 children from ten Abingdon schools were inspired by tales of Greek heroes, locked-room mysteries and sharp-shooting Wild West cowboys...

The annual Abingdon joint-author event took place at Abingdon School's Amey Theatre with bestselling children's author Caroline Lawrence. The event is a bit of an Abingdon institution, and previous authors have included Alan GibbonsMarcus SedgwickJulia Golding and The Two Steves

Caroline enthralled the audience with tantalising mysteries to solve and how she came to write her own books. She also shared some top screenwriting secrets and powerful tips on how to write compelling stories that work in any medium, from books to films.

Caroline is best-known as a writer of some of our best-loved historical mystery stories. She has a reputation for distilling her passion for art, history, language and travel into cracking mysteries for children. She published her first book, The Thieves of Ostia, in 2001 and there are now seventeen books in the series. It was also filmed as a highly successful children's series for the BBC.
Her latest series, the P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries, are set in Virginia City, a Nevada town that grew up in the years after the California Gold Rush. Whatever images are conjured up by the phrase 'The Wild West' you would have found them in Virginia City - so when 12 year Old P.K. Pinkerton sets herself up as a Private Investigator she's in one of the most wild, unruly, unholy and downright dangerous places in America...

Caroline explained that she was not allowed to bring her six-shooter (or possibly a seven-shooter) in to show the children (something to do with health and safety) but she did display slides of various artifacts from the period, including something called a spittoon that - if you really want to know more about, you can go visit Caroline's website.
Caroline signed copies of her books afterwards... well as posing for photos of one of her infamous roman artifacts - a sponge on a stick.
Everyone had a chance to guess *exactly* what this might have been used for in Roman times, but we'll give you a clue: it wasn't for brushing your teeth...

Naturally we took the opportunity to find out more about the California-born author who we now happily claim as our own...

Five Questions with...Caroline Lawrence's Writing Life
1.    What are you working on at the moment?
Well, it's very exciting. I'm about to sign a four-book deal for a new series called 'Seekers' set in Roman Britain. It involves five children, and it takes place in 94 AD (towards the end of the reign of the emperor Domitian). The first book is called 'Escape from Rome' and they will be investigating all kinds of mysteries!

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Oh wow, I've got lots of writing tips! But only one? OK - read your work out loud as a form of self-editing. You've got to know how your words sound when read out.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?
The best thing is the children! I love writing for children, and I'm basically a permanent 11 year old. I love the response you get from children, and when they give you feedback on your books. The worst thing? I really can't think of anything (when I suggest some authors hate the fact that kids read in a day what took a year to write, she exclaims "No, I love that! We need more children reading like that!")

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?
Not really, but it's always a challenge to stay off the Internet. I'm training myself to go into a different room or work on a different machine. But I'm not like Shakespeare (in 'Shakespeare in Love') where I have to turn around three times and spit on my hands. The other challenge I have when writing is not to start snacking!

5.   What was your biggest breakthrough?
When I was introduced to a man called John Truby who is a script doctor. He has something called the 22 steps (or beats) to telling a powerful story. Seven of these are absolutely key. and once I knew these, I have been guided by them in all of the books I've written.


Thanks very much to Caroline, and on a personal note - having seen it many times on the Internet - I feel incredible privileged to have been photographed with her and the famous sponge stick!

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