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'The life I hadn't led'

4 July 2005

'Somebody once said that one's real life is often the life that one does not lead. That's true for me, and I think it's probably the essential ingredient of a "crossover novel" (that is, one which appeals to both adults and children). The Wind in the Willows, the Discworld novels, Harry Potter. All have that in common: the creation of a world that's deeply felt - and that's inhabited by the author - and therefore completely real...

'...the story of the boy and the wolf sat in my filing cabinet, and came to life only when I realised that this was the world I had lost. This was the life I hadn't led.

I think that's what readers respond to: when a story helps them to live the life they haven't led. You can't engineer that, and you can't fake it. It doesn't work every time and you can't predict when it will. But you know when it does, because of the response from readers.'

Michelle Paver, author of Wolf Brother, in The Times