Jacqueline Wilson – full-length feature interview by Janet Christie for The Scotsman
From a distance she looks almost childlike, and closer up her observant twinkling eyes and cropped spring chicken hair give her an air of youthful expectation. Yet Wilson is very much a grown-up, a success in an adult world. She’s the country’s bestselling children’s author, with 35 million copies sold, her 100 titles still shifting faster than Haribos from a school tuck shop. An exhibition of her life has just opened at the V&A, she has an OBE and national treasure status. She’s 68 and not in the best of health, though you’d never guess. Fitted with a defibrillator, and on the list for a kidney transplant, Wilson has dialysis three times a week. Yet she still has the curiosity and imagination of a child and, seemingly untouched by the cynicism that affects the rest of us, she always sides with kids against the adults, writing as a child in the first person.
“I find it disconcertingly easy to think like a child,” she says. “I don’t know what that says about my emotional maturity. I have always been interested in children and if I’m watching a documentary about a family with problems, it’s how it affects that child that interests me. It’s not that I’m interested in childish things but as a child you’re at your most honest and direct and haven’t added all the layers of skin an adult has.
“All the books I adore – as disparate as Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, Crime And Punishment, The Bell Jar – are all first person. You get an immediacy, and it’s easier to get the tone right. Writing as an adult I might want to say so and so wanted a pair of high heels even though she was only ten, not a good idea. You might have been able to say that in the Enid Blyton days, but it wouldn’t go a long way with children now. Writing as a child, you can just say I want them, everyone in my class has them. And you have to have a child that’s quite nosey and watching what’s going on, in the centre of the action.”