Before our Festival kicked off this year we held a special preview event in May with Trent College in Long Eaton. Visitors from the local area came to hear from Joanna Courtney and Sophie Draper, two of our guests for the 2019 Festival, and to learn about the exciting events in this year’s programme.

Both Joanna and Sophie sat down with Trent College Year 8 pupil Glodie for an interview to talk about themselves and their lives as authors. We’re very pleased to share Glodie’s article below.

Joanna Courtney is the author of the historical Queens of Conquest, about the three women behind the men fighting for the throne of England in 1066. The first book, Chosen Queen, came out in paperback last September.

Glodie: When did you start writing?

Joanna: When I was a small child, aged 10 years. I loved the Enid Blyton stories. I wrote lots of Mallory Tower type stories.

G: What inspires you to write?

J: It’s like an itch. I see things around me and see them as a potential story. I like people, I suppose I’m a meddler. I was always better at History than Politics. In History you can see the whole thing – how it happened and the ending, whereas with Politics things are ongoing, you aren’t at the ending yet.

G: Have you written lots of books?

J: I have had 5 books published and have another one out later this month. This one is a contemporary story called Bonnie & Stan under my pen name of Anna Stuart.

G: What’s your favourite published book?

J: That is impossible to say. It’s like asking who your favourite child is! I suppose Chosen Queen as it was my first book published.

G: Do you have another job?

J: I teach creative writing at the Open University.

G: Do you have to have any special skills to be a writer?

J: Imagination, persistence, perseverance. It’s like when you are learning any new craft or skill. If you want to write, you can.

G: What advice would you give a young person who wants to be a writer?

J: Write whenever you can. It can be scary. Sometimes when I haven’t written anything in a while I think will I have forgotten what to do. But once I get started it’s fine. Be prepared to make mistakes.


Sophie Draper is the author of Cuckoo, a gothic psychological thriller set in the wilderness of rural Derbyshire, a haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us. Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green! Sophie’s second novel called Magpie will be published later this year.

Glodie: What is your favourite book you’ve written?

Sophie: I have only written one book, so I guess the one I’m writing at the moment!

G: What inspired you to write books?

S: I was 9 years old when I discovered I loved reading. I would have loved to have pursued writing in my 20s & 30s however it’s hard to make a living. I’ve always loved stories.

G: Do you have another job?

S: Yes, I’m a storyteller. I tell and perform stories to people of all ages from young people in schools to adults and older people. I perform at festivals and art galleries. I’m performing at Chatsworth Flower Festival soon.

G: Is it unusual to live as a writer?

S: Yes, it’s hard to make money. Most writers have day jobs too.

G: Do you need any special skills to be a writer?

S: Love books, love stories of all different types. Read loads too. You need to know what is out there.

G: Do you have any advice for a young person wanting to become a writer?

S: Don’t let anything stop you. People give up, but you’ve got to be determined.

Trent College are a Derby Book Festival sponsor, and in addition to hosting our Taster event, this year they also gave support to our ‘History is Horrible’ Sleepover event at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and our screening of Matilda at the Derby College’s Roundhouse theatre.

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Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763