Inspiration for series was close to home for author as new book is released

PUBLISHED: 08:03 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:03 14 August 2018

Kate Wiseman, author of the Gangster School series. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Kate Wiseman, author of the Gangster School series. Picture: CONTRIBUTED


A children’s writer from Saffron Walden, who has a new book hitting the shelves in September, says her time working at Walden School, formerly Friends’ School, has inspired her writing.

Kate Wiseman, who has lived in Saffron Walden for 13 years, has written four Gangster School books so far and they are being published in the UK, Germany and Holland.

“The local area has definitely inspired my writing,” Kate said. “I spent several years working in learning support at the much-lamented Friends’ School and my experiences there have definitely informed my Gangster School series.

“Not, of course, that Friends’ was anything like Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants, but the dynamics of the school – the structure of the day, the legends that develop in every school, the timetable and the relationships between pupils – undoubtedly had an influence.

“I had Saffron Walden in mind, too, when I invented the town of Borage Bapuize, where Blaggard’s School is located. It’s a pretty, sleepy place, where the honest citizens go happily about their business, unaware that the world’s best school for future criminal masterminds is on their doorstep.”

But Kate said she took extra care to make sure the school in her series was very different to Hogwarts School in the famous Harry Potter series.

“Budding writers are always encouraged to write about what they know well, so a school story was natural for me,” Kate said. “I took care to make sure that Blaggard’s School is very different to Hogwarts. Although the building is old, there are lots of hi-tech features at Blaggard’s – things like the bear statues on the roof. They have hidden cameras in their eyes. Their heads rotate, to keep an eye on things.”

Kate’s other inspiration for the Gangster School series was her son.

“When he was small he used to tell enquirers that when he grew up, he wanted to be an evil genius. I think he enjoyed seeing the reaction he got. He’s now teaching English in Taiwan, so I think that the world is safe.”

Kate plans to continue writing for the Gangster School series and says she’s got lots of ideas for stories, including a synopsis for the fifth book.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky and my writing career has had more highs than lows. Gangster School was shortlisted for three national prizes before it was even published. They were all huge highs and I got a fantastic fountain pen as a prize from one of them. Signing books and talking to readers about my books is brilliant, too. Sometimes I get letters from readers in Germany and Austria (especially boys). I love those and always respond.

“Another high has been connecting with other writers. Being a writer is strange – sometimes exhilarating, sometimes incredibly lonely – and being able to share those moments with people in the same boat is fantastic.”

Describing some of the challenges as a writer, Kate says it took a lot of knocks and patience to secure an agent.

“Trying to get an agent is really, really tough. Every writer sends off their manuscript to prospective agents convinced that it’s the best thing ever, and when the rejections start to come – and they do come for everyone – it’s tough.

“I’m lucky that I now have an incredible agent, Ben Illis at the BIA, but getting him was hard. I got him and got published because I took the knocks, I believed in my writing and I kept going. It’s often said that the difference between a published and an unpublished writer is whether they gave up or not. It’s certainly true in my case.”

Next on the agenda for Kate is a new middle-grade series called The Movie Mavericks for her German publishers.

“I hope that it will appear in the UK, too,” Kate said. “And then I’ll be working on a new, very different series for ZunTold that I can’t say anything about at the moment.”

The launch for the next Gangster School book will take place at Hart’s Books on Thursday, October 4.

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