Fisk, Pauline 1948-

views updated

FISK, Pauline 1948-

PERSONAL: Born September 27, 1948, in London, England; daughter of Gordon and Millicent Fisk; married David Davies (an architect), February 12, 1972; children: Nathaniel, Nancy, Beulah, Idris, Grace. Education: Attended Wimbledon County School for Girls, 1959-66. Religion: "Non-Conformist." Hobbies and other interests: Walking, reading, weaving.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Laura Cecil Agency, 17 Alwyne Villas, London N1 2HG, England.

CAREER: Writer.

MEMBER: Society of Authors.

AWARDS, HONORS: Smarties Prize for Children's Books, overall winner and winner of nine-to-eleven-year-old group, Book Trust (England), and Whitbread Award for Children's Books shortlist, Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland, both 1990, both for Midnight Blue.


The Southern Hill (stories), Lion (Batavia, IL), 1972.

Midnight Blue (novel for young people), Lion (Batavia, IL), 1990.

Telling the Sea (novel for young people), Lion (Batavia, IL), 1992.

Tyger Pool, Bodley Head Children's Books (London, England), 1994.

Sabrina Fludde, [England], 2001, published as The Secret of Sabrina Fludde, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2002.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Lavender Castle, an animated television series, with fantasy artist Rodney Matthews, filmmaker Gerry Anderson, and composer and musician Rick Wakeman. Also working on the next installment of The Secret of Sabrina Fludde trilogy.

SIDELIGHTS: In 1990 Pauline Fisk won the most generous prize available to children's authors—the Smarties book award—for her first novel for young people, Midnight Blue. Fisk, who had been writing since she was a little girl, stopped writing for a time after the births of her five children. Finally she made time to write Midnight Blue by working on the novel in the early hours of the morning.

Midnight Blue was described by the Smarties jury—and book critics as well—as a gripping example of the classic conflict between good and evil. "The story is, in every sense, marvelous," wrote a reviewer for Junior Bookshelf. "The magical elements in it are closely integrated. There is no contrivance, and the action evolves naturally out of the characters and their situation. The same might be said of a number of other stories, but what makes this one so very special is the telling." A reviewer for the London Sunday Times explained, "Midnight Blue is the kind of book that casts a life-long spell over the imagination. It emerges as an original work which is far greater than the sum of its parts."

Fisk grew up in the suburbs of South London, and according to an article published on the BBC Web site, she was a shy young girl, uncomfortable in the world that she found surrounding her, so she began creating a world all of her own. "At the age of nine . . . she decided to become an author [and] began to write her own stories and poems based on characters form her favourite books."

She went on to write several more children's books after her award-winning Midnight Blue. Tyger Pool, a book tackling the difficult topic of the death of a young girl's mother, won praise from critics for the way Fisk handled the subject matter. At the Healthy Books Web site, a critic found Tyger Pool to be "full of symbol and can be read on several levels." Fisk wrote it as a story of fantasy in which the battle between good and evil also plays out.

In 2002 Fisk published The Secret of Sabrina Fludde, which begins with a young girl floating down a river, the Sabrina Fludde, not knowing from where she has come. All that she remembers is that her name is Abren. As she gathers bits and pieces of her past, she realizes that for some unknown reason, she is living out a legend. However, she knows that in order to survive, she must somehow change the ending of the classic story. A reviewer for Locus called this book "an evocative mix of old legend, faerie forces, and contemporary urban survival." The Secret of Sabrina Fludde has been planned as the first part of a trilogy.

Fisk once told CA: "I began to write fiction and poetry at the age of nine, giving up only after the publication of a book of short stories in 1972, when my first child was born. It seemed to me at that time that the obsessional drives of a writer were incompatible with motherhood. I am now striving, after fifteen years away from it, to prove otherwise! Midnight Blue was begun at the worst possible time, after the birth of my fifth child, when I still had a toddler at home as well. But the need to hear what increasingly felt like my 'lost inner voice' was so strong that there was no gain-saying it. Thankfully, now that all my children are at school, I don't have to write at five in the morning anymore!

"Since I decided at the age of nine that I would be a writer, there has never been another career that has attracted me. My only interest when I left school at age eighteen was to 'discover the world' (as I put it then), aware of how limiting my youth and experience were for a potential novelist! 'Discovering the world' found me living in central London, opposite King's Cross Station in the red light district; in Brixton in south London; and out in the wilds of Worcestershire in a laborer's cottage without running water or electricity, two miles away from the nearest road. It found me working for such disparate employers as the Boys' Brigade (an alternative organization to the Boy Scouts) and J. P. Donleavy, the author, in southern Ireland. I worked for the Spastics' Society in London, helping to organize fundraising events, and as an assistant in a social services department, where my discoveries about the nature of the society in which I lived came as something of a shock.

"'Discovering the world' in the heady 1960s and early 1970s also meant making some (limited as I see them now, but major as they seemed at the time) discoveries about myself. Those were exciting times, whatever anybody thinks of them now! Of everything I've done, the career of motherhood has been the one that has been the one that has called from me more wit, intelligence, and stamina than any other. It continually turns my whole life upside down, and in it I've 'discovered more of life' than I did in all the rest put together—and more about myself.

"My method of writing is less one of invention than of discovering the story that's already inside me. I begin by slinging down ideas indiscriminately, and then I work on them to find the story that I know is in there somewhere. I feel like a sculptor, hacking at stone or wood to get at the shape that's hidden in it. Or like a composer writing music (I go over what I'm writing again and again, mostly out loud, to make sure that what I hear is what I'm meant to hear).

"The plot of Midnight Blue grew out of the description of a smoke-filled balloon flight in the book Nazca: The Flight of the Condor I by Jim Woodman and the Shropshire legend of the Arthurian 'Wild Edric,' who is claimed to slumber beneath a range of hills known as the Stiperstones. The house on Highholly Hill is a (now ruined) farmhouse where my family lived while our own home was being rebuilt. I wrote about Shropshire, blending elements and places together, out of the sheer good sense of writing about what I know.

"I write for children, again, because they're what I know. I'm surrounded by them. They're the ones I want to entertain. I also write for children out of my own vivid memories of childhood, and my own often-painful struggle to reach adulthood—to get out into the world at large. My childhood memories are of great frustration and despair. I sympathize with many of the struggles that children—often lonely, to all intents and purposes trapped by the circumstances of their lives—go through, and with many of their hopes and aspirations and fears, when they contemplate their approaching adult lives.

"I may not always write for children (I hope I'll have a go at all sorts of things) but I suspect that loneliness and weakness will be a recurring theme.

"The success of Midnight Blue has been very gratifying after a half-a-lifetime's wait to even begin. But I'm aware, despite everything, that this is still an apprenticeship; I've got so much to learn (in a sense I hope I always will have so much to learn). Graham Greene likened a first novel to a short, sharp sprint into which the runner puts all he's got, and everything after to the long-distance race.

"He's a particularly favorite writer, whose skills I admire, not least his ability to 'lift' a story out of the ordinary onto another plane. Bruce Chatwin and Sylvia Plath are favorite writers at the moment. Jack Clemo, George Herbert, and Bob Dylan are favorite poets too. The single book that has influenced me most is the Bible, both in its language and for the content and quality of its epic tale. It never fails to provoke, surprise, and stir me.

"Among children's writers, A. A. Milne has always been a favorite—I wouldn't be writing today without the stimulus of his character Winnie-the-Pooh—and Hans Christian Andersen and (dare I admit it?) Enid Blyton! Favorite children's books now are The Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt and Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Margorian.

"J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings influenced me greatly in my younger days. And something he said is never far out of my mind now, as I struggle to write realistically for children—but with hope—about our difficult world: 'That on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth, sorrow and the shadow of death can bestow dignity and sometimes even wisdom.'"



Books for Keeps, March, 1998, review of Telling the Sea, p. 14.

Books for Your Children, spring, 1995, review of Tyger Pool, p. 17.

Children's Bookwatch, June, 1992, review of Telling the Sea, p. 4.

Fear, April, 1991.

Horn Book Guide, January, 1990.

Junior Bookshelf, December, 1990, p. 292; December, 1994, review of Tyger Pool, p. 223.

Locus, June, 2002, review of The Secret of Sabrina Fludde, p. 35.

Observer (London, England), October 28, 2001, review of Sabrina Fludde, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1990; May 20, 2002, review of The Secret of Sabrina Fludde, pp. 65-66.

School Librarian, August, 1992, review of Telling the Sea, p. 113.

School Library Journal, July, 2002, Sharon Grover, review of The Secret of Sabrina Fludde, p. 119.

Sunday Times (London, England), November 23, 2001, review of Sabrina Fludde, p. 20.

Times Educational Supplement (London, England), April 8, 1990, p. H-8; November 11, 1994, review of Tyger Pool, p. R3.


BBC Online, (February 24, 2003), "Pauline Fisk—Stories That Teach Children to Love Life."

Healthy Books Web site, (February 24, 2003), review of Tyger Pool.*