Jacqueline Wilson: "I used to love going line dancing. Yee-ha!"

The author shares her regrets, favourite writers, and remembers an embarrassing encounter with fans in a toilet in Milton Keynes
December 11, 2020
What is the first news event you can recall? I remember the coronation and the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, but the event that made the most impact on me as a child was the hanging of Ruth Ellis in 1955. I was horrified that the government could legally execute her. 

What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve ever had at a book signing? I once did a long signing in the middle of Milton Keynes shopping centre. When it was over I hurried along to the public lavatories—followed by a small troupe of eager little girls.  They barged after me and one actually tried to put her head under the door of my cubicle to talk to me. I had to beg her to wait until I came out.

If you could spend a day in one city or place at one moment in history, what would that be? I’d like to have attended the first cheap day of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in May 1851.  The entrance price was dramatically reduced to one shilling for the industrial classes, who spent four and a half million shillings on entry that season.

What is your favourite quotation? “Some say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

If you were given £1m to spend on other people, who would you spend it on and why? I’d spend some on my partner and daughter and my close friends, simply because I love them. I’d donate the rest to children’s charities because they desperately need any help they can get. 

What do you most regret? I used to regret that I didn’t have the chance to go to university—but I’ve since been granted a handful of honorary degrees which more than make up for it.

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I used to love going line dancing. Yee-ha!

Who is your role model? Anyone who carries on writing successfully over 80.

 What have you changed your mind about? The best place to live. I was stuck in the suburbs for a long time, and longed to live in London, for all the bookshops and galleries. I moved four years ago—but to the Sussex countryside. I still love going to London, but nothing compares to the beauty of the country, the sparkle of the nearby sea, and the village social life.

What’s the perfect book to read in a crisis? Any book by Anne Tyler. She is my comfort read, though her lovely, gentle characters aren’t a very happy bunch. 

Can you teach someone to be a writer? I think you can teach someone with raw talent to be a more accomplished writer—but you do need that imaginative spark to start with. I’ve held writing workshops for children, for teenagers, and for adults. I can’t say that I’ve created any truly brilliant writers, but hopefully most participants have enjoyed themselves and found the workshops encouraging.

Jacqueline Wilson’s latest book “Love Frankie” (Doubleday Childrens) is available now