Mark Wright is the author of The Corridor from Badger Learning's reluctant readers series Teen Reads.Mark has written many audiobooks, short stories and comic strips for world-famous characters such as Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Power Rangers and Blake's 7. He is the co-author (along with fellow Badger author Cavan Scott) of the Sunday Times top ten bestselling miscellany, 'Who-ology', a fact-packed journey through all 50 years of Doctor Who's adventures.
A fulltime writer, Mark has recently returned to his roots in the countryside of West Yorkshire where he lives with his family, and regularly visits local schools to talk about reading and writing.
Q&A with Mark Wright
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
I was something of a reluctant reader when I was younger, and it was adventure and supernatural stories (and Doctor Who) that eventually enticed me into reading - which in turn made me want to be a writer. It's a way of giving something back, to try and give reluctant readers the same thrill that I got reading similar stories when I was younger at a time when I was unsure about reading.
What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?
Having been round many schools recently and talking to lots of children from younger reasons, to teens, overcoming boredom seems to be one of the major challenges to get over. I think they can equate that boredom with ALL books, which makes them struggle with a wide range of books even before they've even read the first page, and that doesn't help a reluctant or struggling reader overcome the wider challenges. It's up to us as writers to help them overcome that first hurdle.
What is your favourite type of character to create?
I like strong heroes and heroines, but ones who maybe come from a normal background. Ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary situations and overcoming great odds. It's definitely something I wanted to do with Frances and Tom in The Corridor. These characters could be the girl or boy reading the book, and that I hope helps bring the reader into the story.
And as a sometime Doctor Who audiobook writer, I love creating new monsters and villains!
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 get straight into the story from the first word, to hit the ground running. Some comments have said how surprised they were that my last Teen Read, The Corridor, opened with speech rather than description. That can be very helpful in pulling a reader straight into the story. I like to write short, punchy paragraphs that keeps the readers moving over the page - sometimes a big chunky paragraph can put readers off. With an action story, it's easier to keep the attention by keeping the pace up and moving from start to finish. At the end of each chapter, I like to leave things on a cliffhanger, always leaving a question over the fate of the characters so hopefully the reader will want to carry on.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
They make a huge difference. I think all the titles in the Teen Reads series have been an excellent starting point in helping reluctant readers, in creating an excitement for good, thought provoking adventures. Story is what matters here, and if you can encourage a love of story first and foremost, everything else slots into place.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in The Corridor?
A spooky mystery that needs to be solved by Frances and Tom. I wanted to write something that had the feel of the comic strips that I used to read when I was young in things like The Eagle (and also girl's comics like Bunty, which had some incredible adventure stories in them). Frances and Tom move into a new house, and something isn't quite right from the off. Ghostly apparitions in the dead of night, a tragedy in the history of the house that has led to it being haunted in the here and now. And for Frances and Tom, life is likely never to be same again.
What are the major themes of your work?
I try not to think about themes, I just want to write a rollicking story that's going to entertain, excite and maybe even give a little scare along the way. I'm very interested in how the past can intrude on the present, and how people cope with fear. I like turning something familiar into something terrifying and seeing what happens.
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
It's about finding the balance between using words that will challenge the reader, but also not bamboozling with a lot of overly descriptive writing. With an action story like Deadly Mission, I have to be a bit more on the nose with the description as it would lose the pace to be describing everything with lots of flowery words. You want to get straight to the point, which is quite a help in keeping the vocabulary quite pared down - while not being afraid to add in the odd word here and there that might develop a reader's vocabulary without them being aware of it.
What is your favourite children's book?
It would have to be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl is perhaps the greatest writer of all time, and he was the master of putting ordinary children into extraordinary situations. Charlie Bucket is the perfect example of that. My parents worked in a chocolate factory when I was little, so I always imagined myself in the same situations as Charlie.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Enjoy stories. Let yourself be swept up by them. They'll take you into the most amazing places. And it might just give you the urge to put your own words down on paper - then you'll be the one taking people to those amazing places. The sky is the limit!
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