Sue Copsey used to write non-fiction for children, but then something spooky happened. She decided to write a ghost story, and found that once she’d started, she couldn’t stop. Sue loves to teach children about history, and writing ghost stories gives her the perfect opportunity to weave historical facts into her tales. Her first novel, The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head (2012), takes as a theme Captain Cook’s discovery of New Zealand, and the sequel, The Ghosts of Tarawera (due 2015), is bursting with information about the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, and gives readers a science lesson on everything volcanic. Sue firmly believes that weaving facts in with fiction is the perfect way to educate kids.
Sue’s day job is editing books. Before moving to New Zealand, she was a senior editor at Dorling Kindersley Children’s Books in London. DK occasionally let her be an author too, and in 1995 she wrote Children Just Like Me, which became an international bestseller and won several awards, including the Times Educational Supplement Best Children’s Non-Fiction.
Sue and her husband moved to New Zealand as they knew it would be a great place for their children to grow up. Sue became a freelance editor, and until their closure in 2012, worked mainly for Pearson Education, editing more than 50 schoolbooks. She also wrote Our Children Aotearoa (Pearson, 2011), which was a Storylines Notable Book.
Tips for writing:
1. Write about what you love. If you are fascinated by nature, write a story with a nature theme. If you live and breathe cars, write about those. This way, writing will never be a chore.
2. Edit your work (yes, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). To make sure it’s error-free, of course, but also, try asking yourself: Do I really need that word? Some words you can often do without, e.g. very, really, just. Another way of putting this: why use two words when one will do?
3. Show don’t tell. This is a golden writing rule. So instead of telling the reader: ‘Bob was really hot,’ you show them: ‘Bob wiped the sweat from his brow.’
4. Watch out for ‘purple prose’. Your teacher might tell you to add lots of juicy words, but too many and your reader will be wondering when you’re going to move the action on. For example: ‘The puffy fluffy clouds were painted with streaks of beautiful glittering colours in glowing shades of brilliant purple and golden yellow.’ Too much, right?
Children Just Like Me (Dorling Kindersley, 1995)
Our Children Aotearoa (Pearson, 2011)
Meet Bumble and Friends; Bumble Camps Out, and Bumble’s Missing Drink (Random House, 1999)
The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head (Treehouse Books, 2012)
The Ghosts of Tarawera (Treehouse Books, due out 2015)
On Booktrack.com (ebooks with a soundtrack - read for free)
The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head
The College Street Ghost
The Puzzle: a Christmas story
The Ghoul at School