FAQs

Will there be any more Uncommoners books?

The Uncommoners trilogy was huge fun to write and I have lots of ideas for more stories set in the same world. At the moment, however, I'm working on exciting new projects. You can find out about my other books here. If you want to keep up to date with any latest news, check my home page or follow me on twitter, facebook and instagram.

I'm doing a school project about my favourite author and it's you! How can I learn more about you?

Thank you very much! You obviously have excellent taste. You can read my biography here to find out more informationon. The most important fact to know about me is that I love children's books. Everything from picture books for the under-fives, to young adult fiction; I’m always reading and can normally be found in a library or bookshop, searching for my next good story.

How did you become an author?

I used to work as a children's bookseller in a world-famous bookshop where I had the opportunity to meet lots of inspiring authors. I started writing my debut novel, The Crooked Sixpence during my lunchbreaks. It took me ten months to finish the first draft and then another six months to rewrite and polish a second. I eventually sent the manuscript to a literary agent who offered to represent me and went on to negotiate my first book deal.

What inspired you to write the Uncommoners series?

One day, I was packing to go on holiday and I imagined how brilliant it would be if I could crawl inside my suitcase and arrive at my destination straight away. From then on, I started wondering what extraordinary things might be possible with other everyday objects – what if candles could make you invisible? Or buttons could treat illnesses? What if yoyos could generate tornados? The world of the Uncommoners developed from these initial ideas. I grew up in South London, where I live now. I’ve visited lots of cities around the world but London will always be my favourite – that’s why the Uncommoners books are set there. London's rich history makes it naturally mysterious; it is easy to imagine that the city holds many a magical secret. Using the stories my grandparents had told me about the Cockney markets in London, I built the world of Lundinor. I also used traditional English nursery rhymes as inspiration - the talking bells in Lundinor came from the nursey rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons'.

What are your favourite books?

My favourite book of all time is Peter and Wendy by J.M.Barrie, a story about a boy who refuses to grow up. Being a writer for children is amazing because it means that I don't have to grow up either! I fell in love with the story of Peter Pan the very first time I heard it. I have watched the story performed as an original play, an adapted play, an opera, a musical, a pantomime and a ballet. I’ve collected over thirty editions of the book, along with a bronze statue of Peter himself, and I even have my very own Neverland cushion to keep me comfy when I'm writing at my desk! In general, I love adventure stories with a magical or science-fiction twist- the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus/Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan, the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge... there are just so many!

Can you visit me?

I love meeting my readers! Check out my upcoming events calendar to see if I'm appearing near you soon. If you're a student and you'd like me to do an event at your school, please ask your teacher or librarian to get in touch with Authors Aloud, who manage my school events. Authors Aloud can be contacted at info@authorsalouduk.co.uk. You can also read my events page to find out more.

I love writing! Do you have any advice for budding authors?

I absolutely do! When I write, everything else disappears. One minute I’m sitting at my desk staring at a blank screen; the next I’m deep underground, solving ancient mysteries or fighting deadly monsters. Writing allows us to express ourselves; to stretch our imaginations and, most importantly, to have fun. But crafting a good story isn’t easy. All writers struggle with different problems. These six tips are the ones that always help me when I’m finding the process difficult.

 

1. Think positive.

Sometimes you can hit a brick wall when writing – you’ve run out of ideas; the story doesn’t make any sense; you’re tired; you don’t think you’re going to finish it in time... Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it! A bit of self-encouragement goes a long way.

 

2. Be ruthless when editing.

After finishing your first draft, go back through your story and try to identify areas that could be improved. Don’t be scared to scrap bits or cut things out if they’re not working. Even if you’ve spent hours perfecting a sentence or a paragraph, your story might flow better without it. One of the mistakes I always make with a first draft is having too many characters. During the editing stage, I get rid of as many as possible in order to give the remaining characters more space to shine. It can be quite painful – especially if I’ve grown fond of the characters I have to say goodbye to – but it’s worth it in the end.

 

3. Even magic has rules.

I like writing stories that have an element of fantasy or science-fiction. The Crooked Sixpence is about a secret underground market where people trade in objects that have extraordinary abilities – belts that allow you to fly, bells that can talk or candles that turn you invisible. In order to make my readers believe the world of the story, I made sure to explain why all the items have such incredible abilities. If you choose to write about magic or the supernatural, remember that everything you invent must exist within a set of rules. If you give an explanation for each spell, potion or enchanted apple that appears, your readers will engage with your story easier. You can make them believe that pigs can fly, if you’ve shown how it’s done.

 

4. Trust your instincts

If I lose concentration when writing it’s usually a sign that something in my story isn’t working – the pace of the adventure has slowed or the plot has become too predictable. Listen to your feelings as you write. If you’re getting distracted it might mean that your story has turned boring. Look at it with a reader’s eyes. If you’ve written a comedy, is it making you laugh? If it’s an adventure, do you get excited when you read it back? If you can sense what the problem is, you can fix it.

 

5. Don’t be scared to share.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk to other people about your ideas. It can be nerve-wracking giving your writing to a friend – you worry what they’ll think of it, and what they’ll think of you. I used to be so anxious about this that I didn’t let anyone read my writing for ages! Once I’d finally plucked up the courage to share it, I learned that hearing other people’s opinions only helped me make my writing stronger. Try giving a few pages of your story to your friends and see what they think. Let your writing be judged. Feedback is crucial if you want to know which bits are working and which bits aren't.

 

7. Stories are like chocolate brownies.

If you’re stuck for ideas about what to include in your writing, think about the kinds of stories you enjoy watching in movies and computer games, or reading about in books and comics. What ingredients do they all share? Are they full of frenzied fight scenes and high-speed action? Do they explore relationships, friendships and heartache? Do they make you snort with laughter? Which types of characters do you like the best? Once you’ve identified your favourite story ingredients, you can begin mixing them together. I like books with strong sibling relationships, so I made the protagonists of the Uncommoners series a brother and sister. I threw in lots of action and adventure, a pinch of mystery, some emotional moments and a whole heap of magic. In the end, I’d written a book that I’d love to read myself, and that’s important. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your story – shaping it, tweaking it, getting it right – it only makes sense that you write using a recipe of all your favourites.

Text & photos © 2016-2020 Jennifer Bell All Rights Reserved

'Uncommoners' Illustrations © 2016-2018 Karl James Mountford All Rights Reserved

'Agents of the Wild' Illustrations © 2019-2020 Alice Lickens All Rights Reserved

'Wonderscape' Illustrations © 2019-2020 Paddy Donnelly All Rights Reserved