Karen Moncrieffe has been an educational author for over ten years. Her writing includes a mixture of fiction, non-fiction and teacher resource materials. Karen lives in Birmingham. She is a mum-of-one and works part-time as a teacher.
Karen has written two titles for Badger Learning, Wasted from their YA Reads series, and most recently, Girl Next Door from their Two Sides series which is something different to anything they have published before.
Q&A with Karen Moncrieffe
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
I am a teacher as well as an author. In many of the classes I've taught there has been a group of pupils who struggle with reading. I think it's important that such pupils are able to choose from a wide selection of reading materials which suit their ability level; are age-appropriate and help them to develop an interest in reading for pleasure.
What is your favourite type of character to create?
My favourite characters to create are those who are neither completely perfect nor totally horrible. I most enjoy creating characters with flaws who sometimes make mistakes. Just like we all do.
What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High-Interest appeal that really engages young readers?
I aim to write stories which are easy to follow but not completely predictable. I try to surprise the reader leaving them unsure of exactly what will happen next. I litter stories with 'hooks' hinting at what may or may not happen to encourage the reader to read on.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
Books which are aimed specifically at reluctant readers enable them to read appealing texts written at a level which is appropriate for them. This means they don't have to read books which they consider babyish with content that is too young for them in order to practise their reading skills. The fact that the content of these books is age-appropriate and high interest means that pupils are attracted to them. If pupils are drawn to books, and want to read this is a huge step towards them becoming better readers. They begin to develop their confidence and want to read more.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your YA Read title, Wasted?
'Wasted' is a story about growing up, growing apart, experimenting and making mistakes. It explores real life, making decisions, the meaning of friendship and letting go.
What are the major themes of your work?
A theme that runs through many of my stories is: 'It is not always easy to do the right thing.' My stories often move towards a point where a character needs to decide what to do, or how to react in a difficult situation. I create characters who do not always make the correct choices or do the right thing. At times, they may act in a way that the reader disagrees with. Whether I am writing a fantasy tale or a realistic story, I aim to create very real characters who make mistakes. Another important theme is 'Change is part of life'. Characters may need to deal with change, accept it and adjust to it. Change can be hard, but nothing stays the same forever.
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
I avoid selecting a more complex word if I can find a more straightforward one which conveys the same meaning. I aim to mainly use vocabulary the reluctant reader will be familiar with. A story containing numerous examples of difficult vocabulary would, of course, intimidate the reluctant reader, affect their understanding of the story and turn them off reading. Having said this, reluctant readers may come across some examples of unfamiliar language in my books. As the use of more difficult vocabulary is infrequent, this serves to offer a slight challenge and build reading skills and knowledge.
What is your favourite children's book?
I have a few favourites. I like books with lots of depth and drama. Among my favourites are the classic book 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis, and the teenage fiction series 'Noughts and Crosses' by Malorie Blackman.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Read lots, write about what you know, don't just copy other writers – learn from them but don't be afraid to write something that is different in your own style. Be original. Be true to yourself.
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