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Pauline Francis

Q: Your new title brings together the New and Old Worlds during the time of exploration in the sixteenth century. What interested you in that era?

A: 'It was a time of huge change, especially in religion, and the world was opening up through exploration, people were looking outwards not inwards.'

Q: Was there any specific character or event that inspired this story?

A: 'Yes, I saw the paintings of John White [who is fictionalised in the book], he was part of an exploration group visiting Virginia and recorded the flora and fauna. I looked at this picture of a young girl and wondered what her life was like and how different it would be in the 'Old World'. At that time, there were good relations between the explorers and local people but there were one or two instances of bloodshed to come.'

Q: Do you draw on any of those events?

A: "Yes, in the book you read about the beheading of the chief of Secota by the settlers, who then returned later with another group of colonists, but they abandoned the village fearing trouble because of the beheading. There was also a case in real life where 116 English men, women and children travelled to the New World in 1587 and were never heard of again. They are the 'Lost Colony' and to this day, no one knows what happened to them.'

Q: Nadie and Tom, your main characters, are teenagers. What interests you in writing about young adults?

A: 'I think this is a time when young people feel very deeply and there's a wide emotional scope. In this story I wanted to explore young people who were willing to take risks at a time in their lives when anything seems possible. I felt I had done this and I was interested in exploring characters in a challenging environment.'

Q: What were your own biggest risks as a young person?

A: 'After spending most of my teen years dreaming about travelling, In my 20s I left England for Africa. I travelled in South Africa and west Africa and taught there for four years.'

Q: Are your main characters always so feisty?

A: 'Yes, I think because I was a feisty, rebellious teenager. My father was very much against girls being educated although he thought boys should be well educated. Obviously that is still relevant to many societies today.'

Q: Is it hard to imagine yourself into the minds of characters from 400 years ago?

A: 'No because I don't think they would have been that different from people today. Also, I went through a similar feeling of dislocation and being in a different world when I travelled to Africa. I wanted to explore this huge collision of cultures but, rather than it happening in the New World, I wanted to bring the New World back to the Old World by bringing Nadie to England.'

Q: Did you always know you would end up as a writer?

A: 'No, I felt that writing was for other people and it was only when I became a school librarian and did an MA in children's literature that I began to think it was possible for me to write.'

Q: Any tips for budding authors?

A: 'I think the main thing is to know whether you have found the 'voice' or not for the main character. That is more important than the plot or idea. Once you have the 'voice', the rest falls into place.'

Q: What are you working on now?

A: 'My next book is set in South America in the sixteenth century and it explores a group of young women who feel trapped in their lives.'

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