Joe Layburn - Author Picture

Joe Layburn - Author

Joe Layburn worked for fifteen years as a journalist and television reporter with BBC, ITV and Channel 4, often working on programmes focusing on children, and has been nominated for the Royal Television Society's home current affairs award. In 2002 he switched to teaching, and started working in East End schools. It was here that he heard the little-known story of South Hallsville School, Canning Town where, during the Blitz, around 500 people fled after their own homes were destroyed - and the school itself was demolished by a bomb. This was the inspiration for his novel, Ghostscape – Joe's first book for children.

Joe answered some questions about the book in the following interview:

Would you please tell us about the inspiration and creative process behind Street Heroes?

Georgie’s dad is George Smith, the leader of the British Fascist Party. Everyone assumes that Georgie shares his father’s extreme views on race and immigration, but Georgie’s not sure what he thinks, especially once he starts hearing Fatima’s voice in his head.

With Street Heroes, I wanted to write a gritty, gripping thriller that would also have a message for our multicultural society.

I worked for fifteen years as a journalist, mostly as a TV reporter for Channel Four. That gave me loads of amazing experiences and made me think I could write. But it was only when I left television and started teaching in East London primary schools that I found the audience I wanted to write for – I realised I didn't just want to write any books, I wanted to write for children.

I’ve always been confident in my ability, but, obviously, when you start out you don’t know if anyone else will appreciate you. I wish I’d known earlier about my publishers Frances Lincoln. They’re passionate about the kind of books I want to write and I wish I’d found them sooner!

Make reading a guilty pleasure! Tell them the TV or the Play Station is going off but they can read for a while in bed. Then forget to go in and turn the light off.

Both Ghostscape and the Street Heroes books have clear messages, but they’re meant to entertain as well. Someone who has important things to say about green issues and conservation is a brilliant writer I’ve met called Emily Diamand. But the reason her books are so affecting is because they’re readable and entertaining stories, not political tracts.

I grew up with three adopted brothers: one black, one white, one brown. My family background has had a big influence on my attitudes to the multicultural country we live in, as well as the kind of stories I want to write. Above all, I believe in the idea that we’re all in it together, whatever the colour of our skin.

Obviously, world peace, but I also dream that one day West Ham will win the premiership, or at least avoid going bust!

I’m looking to do further Street Heroes books for Frances Lincoln – I’m currently working on Number 3.

Animal Farm was the book that made the biggest impression on me. Political and passionate, but very entertaining.

I still teach primary age children so I’m in touch with my audience every day. I also do lots of workshops and signing sessions in schools so that’s another good way to meet my readers. It was at a school in East London that I had my best moment as an author. A girl in a hijab asked me to sign her copy of Ghostscape whose main character is a Muslim girl called Aisha. She told me her name was Aisha too. “Did you like it?” I asked nervously. “I loved it!” she said. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Featured Books, with extracts, by Joe Layburn

Street Heroes: Runaways
Joe Layburn - illustrated by John Williams
Street Heroes: Runaways is a fast-paced thriller that deals with important issues while keeping readers gripped from start to finish. By the aclaimed author of Ghostscape and Street Heroes it is in a nutshell ‘Heroes' for children. The Street Heroes...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 11+ readers | 9+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 06/01/2011
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Street Heroes
Joe Layburn - illustrated by John Williams
This gripping story is a ‘Heroes' for children. In London's East End the forces of Facism and violent extremists bubble on the surface but they get out of hand when a highly controversial politician gets a threat on his life. ...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 9+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 06/05/2010
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