Anna Ciddor has made her name as a versatile writer and illustrator of fiction, travel and historical books for primary school children and older readers, Her Viking Magic historical fantasy series has earned her fans throughout the world.
Anna grew up in the sixties in a house without a television. She spent her time doing creative things like drawing, writing stories and acting plays with her two sisters. Her fondest memories of primary school are of playtimes, curled up on a shelf under the coathooks in the hall, absorbed in a book. Teachers would tell the pale, dark-haired little girl to ‘go out and get some fresh air’ but she hated to be dragged away from the world of the story.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, my first career was as a senior school maths teacher, but when I got married and had children I decided to have a go at getting a book published. Since then I have written and illustrated fifty-five books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Irish druids, Australian history, travel, and toilets.
What do you like about being a writer?
I can spend as much time as I want reading, ‘surfing the net’, or just daydreaming, without feeling guilty!
Where do you work?
When I first started writing, nearly thirty years ago, I worked in a corner of my kids’ playroom. I had one desk and an old manual typewriter with sticky keys. When my children were little there were many advantages to being a mum working from home, but also lots of distractions! I spent one Christmas holiday getting up during the night and working between 2am and 5am in order to get a book illustrated. Nowadays I have my own study with three desks, two computer screens, a scanner-photocopier-fax machine, a light box for illustrating, a filing cabinet, and lots of bookshelves (but never enough). I have boxes and papers piled everywhere including all my artwork and my notes for the 55 books I have written and illustrated. I constantly refer back to notes from earlier books when I work on new books.
Does it take a lot of discipline to write at home?
I find it suits me well. My office is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and I use it round the clock! I can get my cleaning, cooking and washing done while I think about my work, and I can run to the computer and jot down inspirations. The advantage is that I can manage a home without leaving my office. The disadvantage is that I never escape from either the housework or the office, so whichever I’m spending time on I always feel guilty that I should be doing the other one!
Where do you get your ideas?
As a child, I always wondered how people lived in 'the olden days'. How did they go to the toilet? How did they cook? What underwear did they wear? I was disappointed when history lessons at school only taught me dry facts about kings, queens and wars. So I did research on my own, devouring anything I could find about life in the past, and the first books I created were filled with the fun stuff about history I didn't learn at school.
This obsession has continued, and has inspired many of my books - both fiction and non-fiction. The only problem is, I love research so much, I always have to drag myself away from it to force myself to do the writing! I love being a detective and I enjoy the excuse that being a writer gives me to intrude in other people’s lives and ask questions. It even gives me the opportunity to travel. When I was researching for The Family with Two Front Doors, a book about my Nana's childhood in Lublin, Poland, I flew across the world to Lublin to do my research. It was amazing to visit the apartment block where my Nana used to live, and to buy bananas at the market where her family did their shopping nearly 100 years ago.
Students inspire me too. I do a lot of workshops in schools and many of my ideas come from the students’ questions, or their reactions to things I tell them about.