Tim Collins is originally from Manchester and now lives near London. He is the author of over 30 books spanning fiction and non-fiction that have been translated into over 30 languages.
His fiction series include Wimpy Vampire, Cosmic Colin, Monstrous Maud and Dorkius Maximus. He has won the Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award and Manchester Fiction City.
One of his more recent titles include Final Girl from Badger Learning's new series for struggling readers, YA Reads II. He has also written Something Rotten, Storm Bringer and West Side Zombie from their Dark Reads II series, and the imaginative series for 9-12 year olds, The League of Enchanted Heroes.
Q&A with Tim Collins
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
I believe anyone can become a reader if they're given the right book and that becoming one will help them with many aspects of life. I've written series fiction for younger children as well as teen novels, so I was very keen to write stories with a high interest age and low reading age.
What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?
They're often very aware of tracking words on the page in a way that regular readers aren't. We need to make them forget their physical experience of holding a book and draw them into the fictional experience of the characters. One way to do this is present situations and characters they can identify with and give them a fantastical twist.
What is your favourite type of character to create?
For action and fantasy, I like ordinary characters forced into extraordinary circumstances. For comedy, I like characters based on contradictions.
What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High Interest appeal that really engages young readers?
In terms of content, I try to bring horror, fantasy or action into everyday life. In terms of structure, I try to write short chapters and keep them as single scenes. I try to enter the scene as the conflict is escalating, just as a screenwriter would, and go out on a cliff-hanger.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
High-low books can stop reading feel like a stressful classroom chore and bring it into the realm of entertainment, along with fast-paced films, TV shows and games.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your two Teen Reads titles?
'Troll' is about getting abusive comments online. It starts with a distressing experience we're all familiar with and spirals into dark fantasy. 'Dawn of the Daves' is about a smart new pupil who seems too good to be true, and probably is.
What are the major themes of your work?
I like to write about peer pressure and the difficulty of fitting in. When you're at school, you feel like an outsider, but then you look back and realise everyone else felt the same. There are no insiders.
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
I try to limit myself to short, common words. But this should come from the voice of the character. You wouldn't pick a first person narrator who wants to show off their wide vocabulary.
What is your favourite children's book?
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. As a child I was fascinated by Tolkien because he was the only author who had an entire section of the bookshop devoted to him. When I got round to reading the book I understood why.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Turn off the critical voice inside your head when you're writing the first draft, then turn it on again for the second draft.
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