Ahead of her appearance in Newcastle to celebrate World Book Day 2018, Clare Balding explains what inspired her to write a book about a little girl who thinks she is a dog

Could you tell us a bit about your World Book Day title?

I’VE always joked with children that I grew up thinking I was a dog and then in Jersey at their children’s literature festival I was asked “did you realise you weren’t a dog yourself or did your parents have to tell you?” The literal thinking of it made me laugh and also I thought - there’s a story in that. And so The Girl Who Thought She Was A Dog was born…

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I wrote stories as a child, but nothing I can remember clearly. The first book I wrote was My Animals and Other Family, which was the story of my childhood based on all the animals we had. Every chapter was a different horse or dog. I walked with Michael Morpurgo for the walking programme I do on Radio 4 (Ramblings) and he told me I should write books about animals for children. I love his work and thought it was so kind of him to encourage me.

What was your favourite book growing up?

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

If you were to recommend one book to read this year, what would it be?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

What advice would you give to budding writers?

Start writing as early as you can - I read a story the other day by a seven-year-old that was really good. The trick is to be open to adaptation - writing the story is one thing, but if you want to make it really good, you will have to let other people read it and take on board their comments. Writing is only half the work - rewriting is the key.

If you could be any literary character, who would it be?

I would like to be Paddington Bear. He is kind and wise and gets to eat a lot of marmalade sandwiches.

What’s your fondest memory of reading from when you were a child?

I loved reading so I was always taking a book off with me to a big armchair or to my room. I liked the escapism of imagining another world created by Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton. I love reading to my niece Flora and she makes me do all the different voices for her.

What do you think makes a good story?

You need to care about the characters and what happens to them so as well as the obvious points of a good plot and strong embodiment of characters, you have to invest enough emotion into the creation of those characters that you care about them as if they were real people. If you as the author believe in them, so will the reader.

Do you always know what the ending will be when you start to write a book?

I don’t always know the details of how it will end, but I do write a plot arc and a character breakdown before I start. It’s impossible to put a number on the days or weeks or months it takes to write a book. Short ones take less time!

If you could dress up as any character from a book for World Book Day, who would it be?

I’d dress up as a dog, obviously.

What is your favourite book of all time?

My shortlist would include The 100 Year Man Who Jumped Out of a Window, Hunger Games, Me Before You, War Horse and Black Beauty

  • The Girl Who Thought She Was A Dog (Puffin) is one of the selected World Book Days £1 titles.

There's a special line-up of authors, titles, events and activities to celebrate World Book Day 2018. The Biggest Book Show on Earth returns with a special one-off event at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal on March 3, with a stellar line-up including sports commentator Clare Balding, comedian Julian Clary with illustrator David Roberts, and Tom Fletcher, formerly of McFly.

World Book Day will be working closely with local partners in Newcastle to bring a special one-off event at the Theatre Royal to life, arranging bookselling and coordinating with local schools to invite children and young adults to attend on March 3. The event will also include David Almond, Francesca Simon and Alex T Smith. Tickets are available to buy from the Theatre Royal website or the box office on 08448-112121.