Sally Nicholls was born in Stockton, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. Her father died when she was two and she and her brother were brought up by her mother. She has always loved reading and spent most of her childhood trying to make life work like it did in books. After school, she worked in Japan for six months and travelled around Australia and New Zealand, then came back and did a degree in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Warwick. In her third year she enrolled in a Master in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. It was here at the age of twenty-two that she wrote Ways to Live Forever, her first novel, which went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2008. She was also named Glen Dimplex New Writer of the Year in 2008. Sally’s later work includes Season of Secrets, All Fall Down and the really rather terrifying ghost story Close Your Pretty Eyes. For more info, visit her website.
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
Doctor Who. As long as I got to travel in the TARDIS.
What’s your favorite zoo animal?
Elephants or monkeys. Aren’t they everyone’s favorite?
What dead person would you least want to be haunted by?
Well, Amelia Dyer is pretty terrifying in my book Close Your Pretty Eyes, so probably her. But anyone big and murderous.
Do you believe in UFOs?
I believe aliens probably exist somewhere. I’m going to believe UFO sightings are fake until I have some compelling evidence otherwise.
If you were a road sign, what would you be?
Heavy Plant Crossing. Because I am all about the odd and the fantastical.
If you were to attend a costume party, who would you be?
Probably someone medieval, because I have a medieval dress sitting in my cupboard, so it would be easy. Possibly Queen Isabella. She was cool. Look her up. Or possibly Miss Havisham so I could wear my lovely wedding dress again.
What food item would you remove from the market altogether?
Fish farmed by unsustainable fishing.
Have you been told you look like someone famous?
When I was a teenager I was told I looked like Martine McCutcheon. I don’t think I did very much.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
By sitting in front of a computer every day, writing and writing until I come up with something worth writing.
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
Yes. But the finished book doesn’t usually end up looking anything like it.
Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
My passion for stories chose me. My decision to turn that into a career in writing was my decision.
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
Somewhere different to where I usually write. I like variety.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My mortgage statements.
If you were no longer able to write, how else would you express your creativity?
Knitting. Cooking. Reading. Telling myself stories in my head.
What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?
From my writing tutor at Bath, Julia Green – you’ll only ever be a second-rate J K Rowling, but you’re the best Sally Nicholls there’ll ever be.
When did you realize that you had a gift?
I didn’t see it as a gift. I saw it as a part of myself. I was probably about five.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
I’m ridiculously fortunate that I get to do this full-time. I prioritize work and friends and family, and everything else (housework, hobbies, accounts, tax return) comes second. I don’t yet have children, so I have more time than a lot of writers.
What is your typical day like?
This. Except my boyfriend is now my husband, and we’ve finished the West Wing. And I don’t have flatmates anymore.
Do you have family members who like to write too?
Cousins, no one closer.
Does your writing reflect your personality?
Yes and no. I’m generally hopeful. I think people are generally decent. Family and friends are important to me. I like making people laugh. Those things come through in my books. But my books also can be dark and sad, and that isn’t me at all. But I am interested in all the things I write about.