Melvin Burgess

Melvin Burgess

Bio

Melvin Burgess has written several novels for children, three of which were shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. He lives in the north of England with his son, a cat, and a tarantula.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

Melvin Burgess

Melvin Burgess

Books

Q&A

PLACE AND DATE OF BIRTH
London; 1954

FAVOURITE BOOK
The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit

When did you start writing?Melvin first started to write when he was twelve and an English teacher gave him an ‘A’ (‘I was so pleased I never stopped…’). He left school at eighteen and trained as a journalist, but he hated it. He wrote his first book when he was twenty, and continued to write in his spare time until he became a full-time writer at thirty-five.

Where do you get your ideas?For Junk, Melvin’s publisher suggested he write a book about drugs. However, Melvin also drew from personal experience, as his own brother was a drug addict, as were other people he knew. A lot of the events that take place in the story were true.

When Melvin gets stuck with a story he does something relaxing, like taking a bath or having a doze; walking, he says ‘is a bit too energetic for proper imagining, which often happens when I’m at my most lazy. You get good ideas in the bath’.

Can you give any tips to becoming a successful author?Melvin thinks that books that tackle serious issues, such as Junk, should be entertaining, engrossing, educational and above all, honest.

What are your hobbies?Melvin has some pets: two gigantic cockroaches, some snails in a jar, and a cat named Panky.

If you hadn’t been a writer, what do you think you would have been?Before he started to write full-time, Melvin had a business marbling fabrics for the fashion industry.

More about MelvinMelvin was brought up in Sussex and Berkshire. After leaving school, Melvin moved to Bristol where he worked at occasional jobs, mainly in the building industry, and was often unemployed. He wrote his first book when he was twenty and wrote on and off for the next fifteen years before his novel The Cry of the Wolf was accepted for publication in 1990. It was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. At about this time Melvin met the author Robert Westall who said to him, ‘As the shocker of the seventies, I’d like to say hello to the shocker of the nineties…’ Melvin thinks this is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him about his books.

Melvin Burgess, described by Maureen Owen, writing in The Times, as ‘a new and powerful talent’, is now regarded as one of the rising stars of contemporary children’s literature. His books are never easy; they deal with difficult subjects such as homelessness, hunting, witchcraft and child abuse. His writing is powerful and his characters are drawn with sensitivity and power that makes them leap from the page and into life. Jill Burridge writing of The Baby and Fly Pie in ‘Books for Keeps’ gives a real sense of his work: ‘The tale is compulsive and its wry tone brings flashes of humour and occasional warmth. Gritty and realistic, this novel touches and challenges, and certainly can’t be put down.’ Three of his novels have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. In 1997, Junk won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award.

Melvin continues to write challenging novels for young adults as well as extraordinarily imaginative fiction for younger readers.

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