Spotlight on ...
A student of ancient Greek with Belfast Classics, Tony is an award winning children's writer. He has written 107 books during a career spanning 30 years. I caught up with Tony to find out what inspires him and I began by asking how he became a writer.
"I started writing poetry in the early 1970s when at the University of Connecticut. Of the many moments while I studied there, I’ll mention two. One class on Ezra Pound was taught brilliantly by someone who lived and worked with him (he died, in fact, while I was at school there), and a couple of music professors performed Schubert’s Die Winterreise, the translation of which in the program for the concert was life changing. It spurred me to write more and more poetry, which I did for the next fifteen years or so, gravitating towards and devouring the work of Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, and Geoffrey Hill, among others. When my first daughter was born, I turned that poetry work into trying to write for children, and it’s there — after a long dry spell — that I finally began to get published.
From the early 90s onward, I’ve written some hundred books for readers 6 to 16. I had left poetry writing behind, sadly, though I continued to read it. Four or so years ago, I combined poetry and young-adult writing with a novel in verse for teenage readers, and I haven’t written prose since. I think I got into children’s publishing in the sort of gentlemanly phase of the industry, before it became a hugely profitable machine. It was possible to manage a career and be comfortable by being well published, but not necessarily growing into a household name. Obviously, I am very lucky to have been in the right place then."