Author Interview with Lauren Pearson
Lauren Pearson is a children's book agent at Curtis Brown. She was born and raised in Ohio, USA and now works and lives in London with her husband and two children. Here's our interview with her about her debut series as an author, Crabtree School.
Lauren, first of all congratulations on your debut series, Crabtree School. You work as a book agent at Curtis Brown, what made you decide to start writing children’s books?
Thank you! I’ve been an agent for about ten years, and over the last few I had been concentrating more and more on children’s projects. I had the idea for the Crabtree series and instead of finding a writer to attach to it, I thought I’d have a go myself. It helped that I had a seven-year-old daughter—I really felt like I knew that readership.
Actually, writing the series cemented my passion for children’s books; not long after I finished the first book I joined Curtis Brown to focus exclusively on children’s projects.
Can you sum up all four books in the Crabtree School series?
The series follows the adventures of five friends starting Year 3 at the best primary school in all of Great Britain; each book is a different character’s story. Crabtree School itself is a 6+reader’s dream-come-true—there’s a fluffy school cat that really smiles, the kindest headmistress in the world, a popcorn machine just like in the cinema… you get the idea. But within that idealized setting, the characters face (gentle) issues and problems that most young children encounter.
"Crabtree School itself is a 6+reader’s dream-come-true—there’s a fluffy school cat that really smiles, the kindest headmistress in the world, a popcorn machine just like in the cinema… you get the idea."
Year Two Forever and Ever introduces the school and the world through the eyes of dreamy Ava. The Year 6 class from last year love Crabtree School so much they won’t leave and turn up again on the first day of school. Chaos ensues, and Ava and her friends have to get them out or face being stuck in the bottom half of the school forever.
Best Friends for Never is about dealing with those times when friendships don’t go smoothly. At the beginning of the novel, Ava and Zoe are best friends, but when the new girl Rani turns up, Zoe’s relationship with Ava has a serious wobble.
The Girl Who Stole the World is a sort of Crime and Punishment for seven-year-olds: Isabel is always the good girl and has to deal with some serious guilt issues when she does something really, horribly naughty.
The Case of the Missing Cat is just a good old romp featuring Lottie, the nosiest member of the group, in a classic detective story. Spoiler alert: This one includes a sleepover at Crabtree School and each of the five Crabtree girls gets a kitten as a going-home present.
Do you have a favourite book in the series?
I loved writing Best Friends for Never because I remember so clearly how difficult it was navigating friendships in primary school—you are just learning how to be a good friend and what to do when things aren’t going the way you want them to. I saw the same worries in my daughter and her classmates and I really wanted to share what I have learned over the past three decades in a way that might make sense to them.
My Ava and I had so many great chats when I was working on that book, and the dedication is to a long list of the best friends I’ve made over the years because I wanted Ava (and other readers) to see that friendships evolve and change and something that seems like the end of the world when you are eight might not when you are thirty-eight! Ava couldn’t believe that some of my closest friends are people I didn’t meet until I was in my thirties—basically an old lady in her eyes!
You said you were inspired by your own daughter, Ava. Are the stories based on her experiences at school?
Some of the characters are definitely inspired by her friends (Lottie the super spy especially!) and I tried to choose stories that fit in with what the real Ava and her friends were talking about/worrying over/obsessed with.
But a lot of the material also comes from what I remember about primary school. I grew up in America and Crabtree is about as British as a primary can be, but there are definitely universal truths about being a kid of that age. When I wrote The Girl Who Stole the World, I asked loads of my friends about the naughtiest thing they had done as a child, and I went with the unanimous answer.
What was your experience like at school? Were you like Isabel, well-behaved or more like Lottie, snooping and spying?
I was definitely an Ava, a bit dreamy and in my own world. I read a lot. (According to the Which Crabtree Girl Are You? quiz in the back of book 2, I am still an Ava. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
When you are little, other children’s lives are so fascinating--even the tiniest differences from yours are huge.
What were your favourite books as a child?
As a young child just starting chapter books, I loved books about real kids: the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary, all the Judy Blume titles for that age range, later I remember devouring the Babysitters Club series. When you are little, other children’s lives are so fascinating--even the tiniest differences from yours are huge. I liked feeling as if I was snooping on the characters, so maybe I have a bit of Lottie in me after all!
How did it feel when you held your first ever published books?
It felt pretty amazing. As an agent I always get a massive thrill when I see a book finally brought to life (there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in each one!) but this was the first time I was ever truly there at the very beginning of the process. Also seeing Becka Moor’s amazing illustrations in proper print form was really something—she brought so much to the story.
What was the hardest challenge you faced when writing your first book?
I think it was actually putting pen to paper, once I had the idea. Part of being a literary agent is trying recognize what will work in the marketplace and also what won’t—I was my own worst critic and that made it difficult to get started.
What’s next for Crabtree School and you? Any more books in the pipeline?
Ooo I hope so. There are five Crabtree characters and only four Crabtree books thus far, so if readers like these I’d love to tell Rani’s story!
We're also running a competition to win a bundle of signed books from the Crabtree School Series. Click here to enter.