> Skip to content

Q&A  •  25 October 2022

 

Robin Stevens shares her number one piece of advice for aspiring authors

We talked with author Robin Stevens about her new book, The Ministry of Unladylike Activity.

It seems like your brain is full of mysteries! From where do you get your inspiration? And how do you keep coming up with such amazing plot twists? 

I read a lot of murder mysteries! I think that’s really important – I’m very inspired by the way other authors have structured their mystery stories. I also think it’s crucial to always be paying attention to the world around you. I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting people, places and things that could fit into my books. In a way, authors are a lot like detectives – we’re always looking for mysteries!

You studied crime fiction in university. What’s the most important thing you learned during your studies, and how has it shaped your writing? 

I learned just how carefully structured each mystery story is, and how important that structure is. It taught me to always be clear about all of the elements of the crime (who did it, why, where, when, with what, and who else was there …) so that I don’t get confused as I write. I make a plan of my murder before I start writing each book, and that plan hardly ever changes – it’s really important to me that I know what exactly happened before I begin!

Do you have a regular writing routine/ practice? 

When I’m working on a first draft I try to write 2,000 words a day – but I can only write fast because I’ve made a very careful plan of the story beforehand! Some days I don’t write at all, since a lot of the work is invisible thinking and plotting time to help the actual writing go more quickly.

What advice would you give young readers who hope to become authors one day? 

The only foolproof advice I can give is to make sure you’re reading a lot and writing a lot. Reading will give you an understanding of how other authors put together their plots and create their characters, and writing will help you practice your own! Don’t worry about spelling or grammar while you write – just tell really exciting and fun stories, and you’ll get better and better.

Where did you get the idea for The Ministry of Unladylike Activity? 

I knew I wanted to keep writing in the world of Murder Most Unladylike, but I also knew I wanted a new challenge. Hazel’s little sister May felt like the perfect way into a new generation of the Detective Society. She’s so fierce and brave and fun, and I realised that she would be 10 in 1940, making the new series a World War Two series as well as a murder mystery series. Then I heard about the real-life British spy organisation the SOE, which was nicknamed the ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ and it just seemed too perfect! I decided to invent a fictional ‘Ministry of Unladylike Activity’ and send some of my favourite characters from Murder Most Unladylike to staff it. May and her new friend Eric try to join, but they’re turned away, so they decide to prove their worth by sniffing out a German spy at an English country house. There they meet a girl called Fionnuala who May absolutely hates and vows never to work with … until the murder happens!

What is your favourite part of being a children’s author? 

Obviously, my first love is writing books. Coming up with new puzzles and characters to solve them is just so much fun! But I also really love meeting my fans and being able to help inspire the next generation of authors. There’s something so special about being an author of children’s books – you’re part of the most formative years of a person’s life, and that’s a true honour. I still remember my favourite children’s books, and I think I always will!

 

Intrigued? Start reading chapter one

Feature Title

The Ministry of Unladylike Activity
The start of a thrilling new World War Two mystery series from the number-one-bestselling and multi-award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.
Read more

More features

See all
News
Superproofs are here!

In stores July 2021, until stocks run out.

Q&A
Alex Michaelides shares why his new novel was his favourite to write

Learn about Alex Michaelides’s new book, the real-life people who inspired his characters and how growing up in Cyprus contributed to the setting.

Q&A
Rachael Johns shares her trick for getting words onto the page

We caught up with Rachael Johns to learn about her writing routines, favourite rom-coms and new book The Other Bridget.

Q&A
Shannah Kennedy and Colleen Callander explain what the word 'elevate' means to them

We caught up with the co-authors of Elevate to learn more about their work, their goals for 2024, and their best advice for getting out of a slump.

Q&A
Anna Funder taking on the patriarchy

We caught up earlier this year with Anna Funder to discuss her upcoming book Wifedom, and how it explores marriage and art as a piece of 'counter-fiction'.

Q&A
The unlikely way Kate Dramis found her literary agent

We asked debut author Kate Dramis about the publication of her first novel, The Curse of Saints. Read about her ‘fairy-tale’ submission experience, how she came up with the idea for the book and more.

Q&A
Nathan Anthony of Bored of Lunch fame shares his ultimate comfort food

We chatted with social media star and home cook extraordinaire Nathan Anthony to learn about his favourite herbs, most-used ingredients and more.

Q&A
What happens when your debut novel becomes a bestseller? We asked Bonnie Garmus

We caught up with Bonnie Garmus after a whirlwind year of success with her debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry.

Q&A
One of the world’s top barbecue chefs shares his favourite food memory

We caught up with Aaron Franklin, author of ‘Franklin Smoke’ and the man behind the restaurant, Franklin Barbecue in Texas. Learn about his ultimate comfort food cooking hacks and more.

Article
Meet the 3 Penguin AU team members who helped illustrate this inspiring book

See how our talented employees contributed to Not Here to Make You Comfortable.

Article
5 series to read if you like Ranger’s Apprentice

Series like Ranger’s Apprentice to read next.

Article
A look inside This Camp is Doomed

Peek inside Anna Zobel’s new book, This Camp Is Doomed.

Looking for more Q&As?

See all Q&As