Author Paul Manship, 53, from Rhiwderin, talks to FRAN GILLETT about how the children he has met over his 23-year teaching career have inspired his novels.
“I WAS born in St Woolos Hospital and my mum and dad moved around various parts of Newport when I was little.
We started out renting a flat and then it was a natural progression as we moved to different areas of Newport.
Both my mum and dad grew up in Pill.
My dad worked for British Steel as a crane fitter but was also a superb footballer and baseball player.
The house was always full of cups and trophies.
And he was always reading, he took me to the library virtually every weekend.
My mum had various jobs including a receptionist and sweet factory worker. Importantly, she started me on reading and writing.
In 1967 when I was about seven, we also moved to South Africa for a year.
My dad was a steel worker but there were lots of redundancies so my parents decided to emigrate.
For a seven year old boy it was quite a vivid experience.
It was still in the time of apartheid and even though we were a working class family we had a black maid called Miriam.
The thought of it now is mad.
The first thing we saw when we arrived was a group of black workers who seemed to look like a chain gang.
Black people weren’t allowed on the same transport and had to go to different schools.
I’ve been reading Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo with my class and it’s been bringing the memories back.
I didn’t really write a lot as a child. Although I enjoyed English I did more reading than writing.
I went to St Mary’s Primary School and was quite a swotty student all through school.
My dad was a sportsman but I was almost the dead opposite.
I had a few teachers who inspired me.
I then went to St Joseph’s Comprehensive in Newport and was taught English by an inspirational lady called Maggie Kreuser who also taught Catherine Fisher.
She gave me a love and understanding of literature, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen, from HG Wells to TS Eliot.
She was quite flamboyant and slightly eccentric and used to sing ‘I’m a little petunia in an onion patch’ as she entered the classroom.
She made a big impression on me and we still keep in touch
I sort of drifted into teaching.
I was doing various jobs and tried out various things, including a hospital porter and security guard.
I started a law degree at UCL, but that only lasted a year.
I just found the social side of university quite difficult.
It was an interesting seven or eight years but it wasn’t wasted time because as a writer you draw on a lot of these experiences.
I met my wife Derryn when we were both working in a job centre – she was a typist and I was a clerical officer.
We bought the house I lived in from the age of eight so sort of came full circle.
We have three daughters, Olivia, 22, Rosie, 20 and Alice 18.
I had an auntie, or a cousin really, who gave me a little talk and said you’re wasting your life, Paul.
I was getting bored and I did not want to do manual jobs for the rest of my life, so with my wife’s support I did a PGCE.
I was working as a security guard and studied part-time at Caerleon College’s teaching college to train to teach primary children.
I started teaching in 1990 at Millbrook Primary School and now teach 10 and 11 year olds, I couldn’t imagine teaching any older.
I’ve seen a lot of head-teachers come and go.
When I reached my 40th birthday I sort of had a mid-life crisis and started having piano lessons but then thought I could write a book in the summer holidays.
In my early 20s I was unemployed and depressed and wrote a novel, but that was it.
I started writing again, finished my first novel and sent it off, but had about 10 rejections before I finally got an acceptance letter with Gomer Press.
I did take it personally. When I started writing I only told the immediate family.
I always create pressure and seem to always be constantly putting pressure on myself.
I overdid it when I first started out and I would write for six or seven hours a day.
But I have been a bit more reflective and I aim to do about 4 pages a day now, about 1,000 words now.
I normally do an initial outline which could be as simple as writing the numbers one to twelve.
As long as I know roughly where the story is progressing and then the characters take on a life of their own.
I do use children’s real names but tend to switch first and last names around a bit.
The children in my class are definitely my inspiration.
I write with myself as the audience and the children as the characters. Like Walter Mitty, I’m creating a little world for myself.
My first drafts are usually absolute pants. I have just got to get it out.
I have had writer’s block before but I have learnt to get through it, the block is having an idea but thinking it’s rubbish.
The best thing to do is just to write. I’m never short of ideas.
The last book all started with a little boy called Charlie who came up to me at school and asked if I could write a short story about him, so I did.
Last year I thought I could expand the story into a novel, which became Charlie Underwood Fights Back.
The children are definitely what set it all going.
I do a bit of research, normally I just google information that I need to know.
To date I have had five published and one even published in Macedonia.
In 2010 I won the Tir-na-n’Og Award, an award for the best children’s book set in Wales presented by the Welsh Books Council which was amazing.
Every editor plays an important part. My first editor, Viv, she was like a teacher.
I used to overuse words but we spent hours going through it and cutting it down. Now I’ve got better at self-editing, though.
My favourite books to read are mainly crime thrillers, writers like Robert B Parker who writes a bit like Raymond Chandler.
When I was younger I used to go to Maindee Library and read anthologies of fairy stories.
As a teenager I moved on to horror and have just moved on to crime. I’m reading all 40 of his novels. I’m quite eclectic in what I read.
My oldest daughter loves to read and reads many of the same books as me. Michael Morpurgo is one of the children’s authors I like although he writes very differently to me.
I have noticed I have started to get physically tired, but plan to continue writing children’s books.
When I retire I think I will spend more time writing and going out to schools, rather than just in the summer holidays.”
l Charlie Underwood Fights Back is published by Gomer at £5.99.