Claire Morgan studied English Literature at university, then worked in a bookshop before earning her stripes at Badger Learning in 2014.
An eternal student, she has a passion for learning and is either to be found staring thoughtfully out of train windows or with her head stuck in a book – or, of course, throwing shapes on the dance floor (provided it's hip hop or anything boyband related).
Claire lives in Hertfordshire with her rocket scientist husband, a neurotic lurcher and a wide variety of novelty mugs.
Q&A with Claire Morgan
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
The ability to read fluently is something that so many people take for granted. It is essential in life for so many things. If someone isn't confident in their reading ability they can feel embarrassed and isolated. So it's a really inspiring and important thing to write something that a reluctant reader can access – but also not feel that they stand out because they are reading something that looks specialised. That's why hi-lo books are ideal.
What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?
They face technical and comprehension challenges, but it can also be about general mindset. I imagine they feel a fair amount of anxiety and apprehension at the thought of failing before they have even started, and this just makes the act of reading harder. Having worked with reluctant readers in the past, keeping up energy and motivation is the most important thing. Then hopefully they would feel more confident the next time they pick up a book.
What is your favourite type of character to create?
I think everyone likes to create villains because they have a licence to say and do things that appear mad/irrational without good reason. They are unapologetic and need not justify themselves, which can often make for the most interesting writing.
What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that high-interest appeal that really engages young readers?
The biggest and simplest thing is not to be patronising. To remember the age of the readers you are aiming at and not lower the content along with the language. I think also writing real relationships with depth, as well as relatable situations (if not real settings) are the best ways to appeal to teenage readers.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
I think they make all the difference. I think they are the difference between a reader feeling included and engaged as they progress into their later teenage years, and falling further and further behind their peers, with countless lasting effects into adulthood.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your upcoming Dark Reads II title?
It's based on Shakespeare with a twist! It might also be a comment on the ruthless culture of talent shows and how TV/the internet/social media creates a distance that seems to remove empathy from the way we treat other human beings.
What are the major themes of your work?
I like thoughtful narratives that represent wider issues/concepts and give the reader something to think about – laced with tongue-in-cheek humour.
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
I think it's very important to use simple vocab and sentence structure. It's also important that the story should be relayed in a thoughtful way – in the clearest way possible so as not to confuse the reader. It should keep a chronological narrative and use names instead of pronouns where possible. I do think some longer words or more complex concepts should be left in so the reader can go away and reinforce their knowledge (as long as these aren't integral to the plot) as these things will help to spark interest and keep the reader invested.
What is your favourite children's book?
The works of Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith were really important to me growing up. Roald Dahl's writing is intelligent, magical and completely absorbing. But if I had to pick a favourite I would have to say Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine. I've never read a book quite like it where from the very beginning the characters seem to walk off the page, fully-formed, like they exist in real life. It's also the perfect balance of funny and sad.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Don't give up after the first draft. If you feel like it's rubbish, leave it, go and do something else like make a cup of tea, then come back to it and revise it. You'll be surprised how much you can transform something that you originally thought had no hope.
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