Permanently stuck in an 80s adventure film, Beverly Sanford grew up with a passion for Saturday morning cartoons, classic BBC sci-fi, synthpop, and books of all kinds. (Nothing has changed.)Bev worked in children's TV production for years, with cheeky celebs like Sooty and Sweep. She's also worked in the music industry and the theatre, and as a Waterstones bookseller. These days, Bev edits fiction, looks after social media, and writes quizzes about children's books.
A proud East Londoner, Bev shares her home with her black cat Neo and a huge collection of books. She can usually be found reading, hanging around on social media or, if it's the weekend, glued to Formula 1.
Bev's debut novel The Wishing Dol is part of Teen Reads III series for reluctant readers and Bev has also penned Silent Nation from the highly-acclaimed Teen Reads V series.
She is over the moon to be part of Team Badger!
Q&A with Beverly Sanford
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
I've always been an avid reader. In secondary school I was part of our paired reading scheme, helping pupils who found reading more difficult. It was an amazing experience and made me realise how lucky I am to be able to read easily and enjoy books of all kinds. I became aware of reluctant reader titles through my work with Renaissance Learning, which made me interested in trying to write them.
What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?
I think reading a book can feel really daunting at times – just the pressure of reading it, getting to the end, can be enormous for anyone who isn't sure about it. It can take away from the sheer enjoyment that should come from just reading.
What is your favourite type of character to create?
Great question! I am a sucker for a slightly rumpled comedy sidekick with a big heart. He turns up in nearly everything I've written and he's always the one who saves the day. I like strong female characters that are smart and sassy, and I really like creating characters with lots of layers and hidden pasts. (And let's be honest, who doesn't love writing a proper villain?!)
What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that high-interest appeal that really engages young readers?
I try to create strong characters who are in situations that the reader can identify with. In The Wishing Doll, one of my characters feels that her sister is more popular and capable than she is, which leads to her becoming jealous and forgetting about what matters. I try to ensure the action is well paced and set in a familiar environment.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
Hopefully, they will make children feel more confident about reading and help them to enjoy it more. The Teen Reads books provide really gripping stories, with characters and situations that children can identify with, so hopefully they'll make children want to progress to other books.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your upcoming Teen Read title?
You can expect a few surprises and hopefully plenty of spooky moments! A seemingly ordinary object will change people's lives in a terrifying way.
What are the major themes of your work?
What happens when jealousy gets out of control, and how you should be really careful what you wish for!
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
I start by just writing the book, keeping the reading level in my mind. Then I go through it and ensure none of the words or phrases are too confusing. I've read lots of brilliant reluctant readers, so I was able to draw upon that experience to undertake writing one. It's important to make sure that the story comes first and that it engages and interests the reader.
What is your favourite children's book?
That's a really hard question! I grew up reading Doctor Who, Enid Blyton, L.Frank Baum, Roald Dahl, horror, and classic sci-fi like John Wyndham and Douglas Adams. I still love horror and sci-fi, and there are some amazing children's writers out there – my shelves are full of them! Two books I have always especially loved are S.E Hinton's The Outsiders and John Masefield's The Box of Delights.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Read lots and lots, and lots more! Write about something that interests you or that you're passionate about as it'll come through in your writing. And don't give up!