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Sam Gayton
Interview Date: Tue 28 Apr 2015
Sam Gayton lives in South London. In 2009 he completed the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University and not long after published his first book, The Snow Merchant. He loves American novels, Italian food and the English countryside. When he's not writing, he likes playing old board games, strumming his guitar and joining as many rock bands as possible (currently at seven). He tweets @sam_gayton.

Credit: Randmom House

Your Questions Answered:

At 29, you've been already been incredibly prolific. When did you start writing?
Question By: Wes Brown
I sort of don't think I've been that prolific at all. I'm always feeling the anxiety that I'm not working fast enough. Those writers who can write a couple of books a year... I'm in awe of them! Mine seem to take me much longer... about two years each, once you factor in all the rewrite time, and the edits, and the discussions, and the (one or two) eureka moments.

Like lots of writers, lots of my earliest memories involve making stories. I used to dictate them to my mum. She wrote them up on the typewriter... And I spent lots of afternoons making comics with my friend, Loo. We created a whole universe set upon a breakfast table. The eggs were always fighting with the toast.

But all that was for myself, really. At some point in my teens, I started writing fanfiction. I had one fan. My friend AJ. Every week he'd come in to school and say 'where's the next chapter?' I used to bring it in for him on floppy disc. That was an important moment for me, I think. It was the first time I had someone to surprise with twists, and keep in suspense. It was the first time I had a reader who wanted to hear the story I had to tell.
Was writing for young people something you always had in mind?
Question By: Wes Brown
Not really. I tried all sorts of things. It's good to experiment. I wrote dark, apocalyptic stories for a while, because I like Cormac McCarthy. I wrote a lot of Science Fiction - spaceships and alien planets and galactic wars - because I grew up watching Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers and Star Wars. I wrote poetry - because I girl I liked wrote it and I wanted to impress her. (I didn't - it was bad).

Then I started working in a school, and because I was around kids all day, I started writing children's stories. And bingo! It just felt like ME. Like I wasn't pretending to be someone else. But I had to go through all that mimicry to find who I was.

Sometimes you don't find your own voice until after you've tried out a few other people's.
Did studying creative writing at University help?
Question By: Wes Brown
Yes! Massively. It gave me my career!

I did creative writing at two universities, and the experience was VERY different at both. One was very intellectual - and I don't mean that in a disparaging way. The tutors liked to see stories as games played with language. They'd tell us admiringly about writers who had rewritten the whole of Othello, without using the letter o. Stuff like that. It was really fun, but sort of unsatisfying too, because we were looked down on a bit if any of us created something with a narrative.

'I found it a bit "pop",' they used to put in the margins. I found it hard to see how that word could be used as an insult.

So I went and did a course specifically for writing for children, at Bath Spa University. It changed my life. The tutors were all published authors, and they gave us really helpful tips about the BUSINESS of writing. How to write a covering letter. What to do when you get a rejection. The pros and cons of having an agent. 

And not only was everyone LOVELY, they were all so blimmin TALENTED, too. About six or seven students from my year have gone on to have things published.

At the end of our course, we put all our best work into an anthology, and sent it out to publishers and agents. From that, I managed to get some interest, and eventually a publishing deal.

So I'm massively in favour of creative writing - as long as they are the RIGHT ones for YOU. Don't carry on with a course if you feel unhappy, if you feel like you aren't learning anything, or if you feel that everyone around you is dreadful.

If you're going to spend time, effort and money doing something - it has to be USEFUL.

What does been an ambassador for the Wicked Young Writers Award' involve?
Question By: Wes Brown
Well, I have been one for about two weeks - so we shall see!

But I think I'm mainly here to say, loudly and often, that getting into publishing is hard, and it takes time, and it takes guts too. But the WYWA can help. 

It can get you published. It can get you mentoring and contacts. It can even just get you used to sending your writing out and dealing with rejection (tenacity is a writer's number one skill). So it is really, really worth entering.
Who can get involved with the award? Is there anything for teachers and writers?
Question By: Wes Brown
Anyone up to the age of 25! And at http://www.wickedyoungwriters.com you can find tips from the great Michael Morpurgo and Cressida Cowell.