Hello! I’m a British/New Zealand writer of all things but mostly I love to write children’s books that are set in wild places. My debut novel is an adventure for 9+ year-olds called RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD. My second novel for middle-grade readers is called WHEN THE MOUNTAINS ROARED.
Daring kids, sidekick yaks, Himalayan setting – all the ingredients of a smashing adventure. — Abi Elphinstone
There’s inevitably a political element to the story, pitched at just the right level, but this is also an exciting adventure with vivid descriptions of the landscape. A story relevant to the world that we live in today, told with compassion and understanding. — The Guardian
As a child I wanted to be many things, including a vet and even David Attenborough, but throughout all of those ideas, I always wanted to write. So I studied creative writing as a BA(hons) at Bath Spa University, where I won the Writing for Young People Prize in 2011. I then completed a Master’s in Writing for Young People, also at Bath Spa University, and graduated in 2015.
My first two novels, RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD and WHEN THE MOUNTAINS ROARED are set in the Himalayas. My family on my Dad’s side has lived in India for seven generations and I spent much of my childhood in India too. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. She was off on her own adventure, travelling in India, when she met my dad. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.
Some of my favourite things as a child were: clambering over mountains; climbing trees; my dog Raja; playing with my three younger sisters and dressing up in my Grandma’s clothes.
Although RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD is fiction, it is inspired by a journey that tens of thousands of Tibetans have braved. I wanted to write a story that is relevant to today and grounded in events, places and communities I care about deeply.
WHEN THE MOUNTAINS ROARED is inspired by my Grandma. You can read more about her here.
Now I live between Louisiana in the US and Frome in the UK, and you’ll often find me back in the Himalayas too.
Golden Books Girl Interviews Jess Butterworth
I was delighted when one of my favourite book bloggers decided to interview me. Her name is Golden Books Girl and you can find her blog here.
Now I’m going to hand over to her…
Today, I’m incredibly excited to welcome another author for a Q&A; the incredible Jess Butterworth, whose stunning debut Running on the Roof of the World I absolutely adored (you can read my review in this post). On to the questions!
Hi Jess. Welcome to Golden Books Girl, and thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me!
My pleasure! I’m delighted to be here.
1. To start off, can you sum up Running on the Roof the World for anyone who hasn‘t read it yet in 5 words?
Contemporary Himalayan adventure, featuring yaks!
2. I absolutely loved the setting of Tibet in the book. What inspired you to set the book there? Is anything in the book based on your own experience of living in the Himalayas?
Absolutely. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.
I wanted to introduce readers to events I care about deeply, but really it wasn’t as planned out as that. Tash’s voice appeared in my head one day and wouldn’t leave.
The vulture tree is based on a tree I saw about ten years ago, with many vultures perched on its branches. It’s something I’ve never seen again on my visits since, and an image that has stayed with me.
Another real life moment I drew from was when my sister and I once walked down the mountain at dusk and saw a bear up a tree. Needless to say, we backed away slowly and luckily left the bear undisturbed. My sister is a singer and from that moment onwards she would always sing at the top of her lungs as we walked over the foothills. We were taught never to sneak up on the leopards and bears; you’re safer if they can hear you coming and will choose to get out of the way.
The glacier scene came from a time I was trekking with my Dad and we camped by a glacier. Later, we used our sleeping mats to slide down the glacier. It was fun, but bumpy!
During my research trip, when I was close to the India/Tibet border, after acclimatising, I went up to 18380 feet, and very much felt the effects of being at such a high altitude. So that made it into the book too!
3. The difficult political issues in Tibet are very prominent throughout Running on the Roof of the World, as Tash‘s parents are arrested by the Chinese soldiers for being rebels. Was it a challenge to explore such a brutal situation and still aim the book at middle grade readers?
I definitely spent time making sure that the book was truthful to its setting whilst still appealing to middle-grade readers. I wanted to write a story that was relevant to today and it was important to me to include those moments as they’re grounded in real events. Writing in first person helped and allowed the reader to see the events through Tash’s eyes, while still giving a sense of the bigger political picture. I included moments of lightness and laughter, and an overall theme of hope, and I focused on the universal aspects to make it relatable to younger readers.
4. What was your favourite scene to write in the book?
So many! I loved everything about writing about the mountains! Sliding down glaciers was one of my favourite, hiding with Eve, and the ending.
5. Speaking of writing, do you have any unusual writing habits? What are your writing routines like?
In the past few years, I’ve had many different jobs at the same time as being a writer, from working as a bid-coordinator, assisting in a vintage furniture shop, to nannying. In between them I was often travelling to and from India which means that my writing habits changed regularly. They mainly consisted of writing wherever and whenever I could! I do know that I work best in the mornings, when I can wake up and write straight away. I like to start a new idea in a notebook before transferring it to my computer.
Right now, for the first time ever, I have an office and office assistants, Luna and Bo Bo, the Maine Coon mix kittens, which is exciting.
6. Do you have any tips or advice for writers reading this interview?
Read as much as you can. If you’re stuck for inspiration, think back to the things you loved doing at the age at your protagonist or the things you feel passionately about. So much of writing is re-writing; Running on the Roof of the World went through at least ten full drafts. Practice patience; everything takes a long time! Most importantly, don’t give up! Everyone has rejections.
7. What other activities do you enjoy apart from writing?
Trekking, dancing, reading, camping and being outside, being with friends, yoga, watching live music, travelling.
8. What has been your most exciting moment of being an author so far?
The book launch for sure! I got to see it in a Waterstones window display and gave my first public reading.
9. If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
Matilda by Roald Dahl because it has remained one of my favourite books.
10. Finally, before we go on to the quickfire questions, are you able to say anything about your next book? I can’t wait to read it after your amazing debut!
Aw, thank you! It’s called When the Mountains Roared and is inspired by my Grandma who smuggled a kangaroo joey out of Australia. It’s an adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers.
Can you give us three random facts about you?-
In the Australian outback, I got bitten by a brown snake and airlifted to hospital.
I have three younger sisters.
I edited Running on the Roof of the World while I was in India, during monsoon. I was often enclosed in a cloud. If I opened a window, the cloud would drift inside. My pillow went mouldy.
Yaks and leopards (couldn’t choose!)
Favourite chocolate bar?
Yesterday someone gave me pomegranate dark chocolate and it is my new favourite thing!
What’s your Hogwarts house?
Best book you‘ve read this year?
The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed writing the questions and organising the post with Jess, who has been an utter delight (and was kind enough to send me the gorgeous photos throughout the post to use)
See you soon with a new post
This interview was originally published on https://goldenbooksgirl.wordpress.com.