Howard Linskey

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Howard Linskey is the author of Vikings from Badger Learning’s reluctant readers, non-fiction WOW! Facts series.

Howard has written three crime fiction books for adults; The Drop, The Damage & The Dead. He was a Times newspaper top-five ‘Thriller Writer of the Year’ in 2011.

Originally from County Durham in the north east of England, Howard lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin. When not writing, he is often to be found bemoaning the fortunes of his favourite football team, Newcastle United.

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Q&A with Howard Linskey

 

What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?

I thought it was a fantastic idea to write books designed to really encourage kids to read when they would normally struggle to pick up a book. If children aren’t given an opportunity to engage with books at an early age they could easily miss out on the pleasures of reading for the rest of their lives.

 

What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?

It’s extremely difficult to hold your interest in any task if you can’t understand it and reading is no exception. It’s simpler just to give up on a book if the story is peppered with words you can’t comprehend or if the subject matter is something your peer group dismisses as boring.


What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High Interest appeal that really engages young readers?

You have to grab the reader’s attention right from the start and keep it. For non-fiction books it means picking out the facts most likely to interest your reader and presenting them in a snappy way that’s easy to digest. I’ve written a historical book and I know from experience that history can be very dry when the focus is on dates or the subjects seem distant. Good teachers remember that history is the story of real people just like us, who happened to live in a different time.


What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?

If you’ve ever witnessed a child struggling to read a book because the vocabulary is challenging or the facts presented are too complex then you will know how frustrated they can become. That can lead to hostility towards reading as a pastime or, at the very least, boredom. The WOW! Facts books for reluctant readers are designed to be interesting and fun.


Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your upcoming WOW! Facts title?

I chose to write about the Vikings and I really tried to select the most exciting facts about them; how they lived and how they fought, what they wore, ate, drank and believed in and how they were buried when they died. I’ll tell you about the fearsome weapons they used, their ‘special forces’ and the effect their raids had on everyone around them. The Vikings were basically very scary pirates who prospered for 250 years. Their story is absolutely fascinating.


What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?

I have a secret weapon. My daughter is eight years old and I let her read the book first to make sure she understood every word. If there was anything in there that Erin didn’t understand I would have removed it. She said ‘I will be your editor daddy’, which was lovely.


What is your favourite children’s book?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved the idea of a young boy being thrown into a cut throat world full of murderous pirates ruthlessly seeking treasure. I badly wanted to be Jim Hawkins when I was his age, though I strongly suspect I would have lacked his courage and resourcefulness.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?

Keep at it. If you really want to write then ignore everyone who tells you that the odds of being published are firmly stacked against you and just keep going. Most successful authors have received enough rejection letters to paper their walls. Don’t give up because you think writers only come from a certain section of society and you don’t belong among them. That’s not true. I’ve met authors from very different backgrounds but the one thing they all shared is a love of writing.
 

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