Eltham Introduces …..Tom Mitchell, Head of Creative Writing and Published Author

How did you become a writer?  

I could answer this question in lots of different ways – describing, perhaps, how at school, English was the only subject where I didn’t have teachers write ‘must try harder’ in every report. But, essentially, I got an agent, they submitted manuscripts to publishers, and eventually one landed.

Where do you get the ideas for your books from?  

My mind. I guess it’s a combination of things I find funny what if situations and things that have happened to me/friends/family. For instance, my dad was once locked in a bank’s toilet. And I once went on a three-day train journey from LA to Chicago. Less dramatic than Jacob’s adventure in TTIGK but lots of fun.

How do you go about writing your stories, and how long do they take?  

With two kids and a full-time job it can be difficult to find the time. During the holidays, I force myself to spend at least an hour in the morning writing, with an hour in the afternoon/evening editing or rewriting. With the current publishing schedule, Covid notwithstanding, it’s a year between books – so maybe about nine months in total to get every edit sorted.

Do you base your characters like “Dylan in How To Rob a Bank” on anyone in real life?  

They’re all a part of me, I guess. My family too. Dad was a painter and decorator who liked films, so, obviously, the father in How to Rob a Bank isn’t a million miles away from that.

What books do you enjoy reading? Stories. Books about travelling to foreign countries. Crime fiction. Books about football abroad.

I’m always keen to give recommendations. American literary fiction. Offbeat non-fiction. Fat tomes on political history. Creepy gothic, uncanny stuff. Funny children’s literature. I sometimes worry that I’m trapped in adolescence as the things I enjoyed doing at 18 are still the things I enjoy now. Reading being one of them. I truly believe that there’s a book out there for each of us, that will change our lives. It’s finding it that’s the problem, so I’d probably suggest starting with my books.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 

Support a football team other than Sheffield Wednesday. And keep on writing.

What do you do when you’re not writing?  

Reading. Parenting? Oh and teaching, of course!