Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Interview #4: Alexandra J Pratt

"I love to tell stories that have never really been told much before."

So says Alexandra J Pratt, children's author of The Day The Island Exploded and Shipwrecked!, both tales of high adventure and derring-do.

Alexandra J Pratt
"I have such an interest  in obscure true life stories that I think should be better known and I find that more inspiring than fiction."

Alexandra's day job is as a journalist and her speciality is thoroughly researched non-fiction. She loves nothing more than being holed up in a library or the archive of the Royal Geographical Society with an archivist bringing her rare old documents, like a waiter producing vintage wines from an exclusive cellar.

What sets Alexandra apart as a writer is that she has chosen to write her stories for struggling young readers. "I am really interested in the subject of reluctant readers and books for them," she said, when I interviewed her. Research shows that boys are the most reluctant of readers but they are more likely to read an e-book, she told me.

"I don't make up any facts, but I write it so that it reads as easily as any fiction. I don't want it to be dry to read. But I am not one of those writers who blurs the line between fact and fiction. Everything is absolutely true."

The book inspired by her father-in-law's experiences
She says the idea for her first children's book, the Barrington Stoke-published The Day The Island Exploded, was a gift. It is set on an island in the Antarctic and involves her protagonist fleeing an exploding volcano... and it is based on something that really happened to her father-in-law.

"I love these stories - National Geographic is full of them - they never get told anywhere else afterwards. Yet each could be a book."

Her new book - which she has chosen to self-publish through her own e-book imprint Moriarty Press - is Shipwrecked! It is set in 1740 and tells the story of a British warship shipwrecked in Patagonia and follows the exploits of the real life midshipman Isaac Morris with lashings of mutiny, murder, starvation, slavery and imprisonment.

Sounds like something out of Robert Louis Stevenson, I suggested. Was he an influence?

Not specifically, she replied - she enjoyed the books of Arthur Ransome when she was young.

Shipwrecked! is published through Alexandra's e-book imprint Moriarty Press
"Isaac Morris wrote his own account of his life. I have drawn on his account plus corroborating accounts of other survivors."

Alexandra is no stranger to adventure herself. In 2002 Harper Collins Canada published her book Lost Lands Forgotten Stories - A Woman's Journey To The Heart Of Labrador, her account of her courageous canoe expedition in eastern Canada. Book aside, her exploits were so impressive she was presented with the Captain Scott Society Spirit of Adventure Award 2000 for her efforts.

She has clearly never been one to sit around waiting for the world to come knocking at her door. She published her first couple of books - guides to Cornwall - in her early 20s. As well as her books, she is a busy freelance journalist for magazines, specialising in travel features and articles for property periodicals.

Her e-book imprint, Moriarty Press, is an exciting project. She said:  "I'm passionate about books and reading. I love to write books that can open a door into that world for people who may have struggled in the past. By launching my latest book digitally, I'm hoping I can reach a whole new audience who may be tech-savvy, but book averse."

She said Shipwrecked! is the first in a series of non-fiction, true-life adventure stories with a reading age of 8, and an interest level of up to 14+.

This get-up-and-go spirit in herself is what she looks for in other people when she is searching for interesting stories to tell.

Of the people she has interviewed for a radio show she presents on a Devon station, she says: "I've interviewed an 18-year-old girl who was working in Madagascar and a lady in her 50s who went riding through the Rocky Mountains. It makes you realise that anyone can go out and do whatever they want. They've just got to make it happen."

Alexandra J Pratt definitely lives by her own philosophy.

Her website is here.

For more about her e-book imprint, Moriarty Press, click here.

Check out Amazon for her books.

* My thanks to Alexandra for speaking to me.

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