Author Gareth Ward's The Traitor and the Thief was recently announced a Storylines Notable Book 2018, and won a Sir Julius Vogel award for Best Youth Fiction. The author chats to Mark Story.

What was the spark for The Traitor and the Thief?
I was sat at my writing desk and the random thought popped into my head that wouldn't ''Sin'' be an interesting name for a character. Very soon I knew why he was called Sin, which isn't his real name, and that he was an orphan living rough on the streets of a Steampunk Victorian Oxford. As he turned from my imaginings into a real character I realised that he had a burning desire to discover what had become of his mother and that his recruitment into a clandestine spy organisation was not the random happenstance it seemed to be, but the first step in his journey to uncover his past.

If children's authors have a role in society, what is that role?
I think the role of children's authors is to provide great stories for children. Some of those stories may have an obvious social or moral message but first and foremost it should be about the story. Children gain so many benefits from reading: empathy, reasoning, understanding, communication skills, world knowledge, life skills … the list goes on. I feel it's therefore important for us authors to provide fantastic books they want to read.

Outline your typical weekly writing timetable.
I don't have a typical writing timetable. I run two bookshops, Wardini Books and Wardini Books Napier, with my wife Louise and so I have to have a flexible approach to my writing. I try and write 500 new words a day, which is a reasonable target. If I have time spare after that I will work on editing and re-writing existing work. I tend to find that my brain works best in the morning or late at night.


Who's your favourite children's author?
It's hard to pick one but I would have to go with Jonathan Stroud. I absolutely adore the Lockwood & Co series he wrote, which are about three friends who run a ghost hunting company. It's one of those series of books that I wish I had written. I also enjoyed his Bartimaeus trilogy.

You've mentioned your children's books also resonate with adults. Was that intentional? If so, how do you do that?
I love reading young adult fiction and so I write the sort of books that I would want to read. I guess my work will therefore naturally appeal to adults, too. At no point am I consciously thinking about the adult market, they're not my target audience. I do intentionally ensure that I am not dumbing down my books. Kids are smart and I think they need to be treated with respect.