Chrissie Sains grew up in Billericay, Essex, where she spent her childhood seeking adventure and finding trouble. Described by her teachers as having a “lively imagination”, Chrissie’s escapades include her attempted rescue of the school’s pet fish and the discovery of a dead body in a field that turned out to be two tyres under a sheet. She has swum with sharks, scuba-dived shipwrecks and sky-dived from a plane. Chrissie has a background in marketing and events but now writes full time and is a graduate of the Golden Egg Academy and a member of SCBWI. Along with the Jam Factory books, she is the co-author of I Got This, with Cara Mailey. She lives in Essex with her husband, two bookworms and two rabbits.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel (book)?
I wrote An Alien in the Jam Factory for my god-daughter who, like the main character Scooter, has cerebral palsy. She wanted to see a character experiencing similar challenges to her own having a fun adventure. I spent a lot of time with her developing Scooter and the Jam Factory – she even came up with the idea of the Hand-Bots (a Wallace and Gromit style giant robotic pair of hands who help Scooter to complete tasks in the factory)!
What came first the characters or the world?
It started with the characters – they leapt onto the page. The world wasn’t far behind though; my kitchen floor was littered with drawings of maps and inventions within a few days of starting out on the idea.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
It was SO tricky! An Alien in the Jam Factory was the fifth book that I’d written (though the first to be published). I had lots of (very kind) ’No Thank yous’ from various agents and publishers before I was lucky enough to see my book on the shelves of a bookshop.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
I’m absolutely thrilled by the reactions I’ve had to the book. I’ve had parents of children who have cerebral palsy get in touch to say not only that their child has loved reading Scooter’s adventures but that it’s also led to some great conversations with other children about disability and representation – that really means a lot. Parents have also gotten in touch to say that it’s the first book that their reluctant reader child has ever read all the way through. Many teachers have really embraced the series and used it to create some fabulous work in class, which has been very humbling to see. But most of all, it’s seeing children giggling as its read to them. A parent sent me a video on social media of their child belly-laughing as they read An Alien in the Jam Factory, which was amazing!
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
In my school author visits, I often spark a conversation about the books that turned us into readers. Last week one boy told me it was ‘An Alien in the Jam Factory’ that had turned him into a reader. Also, that he likes it better than (the utterly hilarious) Diary of a Wimpy Kid – I nearly cried!
What can you tell us about your next book?
Slugs Invade the Jam Factory is coming out on 6th April and we’re heading back to the jam factory for a very slimy adventure! A dastardly slug called Mucus Vane wants to turn the factory into a slug cafe and wellness spa – it’s up to Scooter, Fizzbee and the team to stop him!
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I was an events planner and organised big corporate parties. I once had a Cirque Du Soleil act hanging from the top of the temperate house in Kew Gardens and I’ve turned St Paul’s crypt into a house of illusions. It was lots of fun and very creative.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Every author! It’s a wonderful job but it can also sometimes be a tough job – there’s a lot of stepping out of the comfort zone, learning new skills and overcoming fears, not to mention the perseverance and resilience it takes to get published in the first place! I have a huge respect for every author out there!
What is your biggest motivator?
My family – they believe in me more than I do! I’ve always loved telling stories but I never thought I had the skills to write them down (I wasn’t exactly top of the class at school). They persuaded me to give it a try and still show so much enthusiasm for every project I embark on. I wouldn’t be a published author without them and it’s always in the back of my mind that I want to do them proud.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I was a big reader from the age of ten or eleven, until then I was less enthusiastic. I had a great teacher in Year 6 who inspired a passion for reading in me (and my whole class) by making reading part of our class community. I’m so grateful to her – if it wasn’t for Miss Wilson, I probably wouldn’t be an author now!
What were your favourite childhood books?
Anything by Roald Dahl – I loved his books! I also really enjoyed reading poetry with my mum from ‘When We Were Very Young’, I love the poem, Daffadowndilly’s and The Bears and the Squares.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
Oh, such a tricky question – that’s like asking if I have a favourite child!
I’ve made great friends with Tash and Jim from Chicken and Frog bookshop (where my daughter also works) and Jacqui at Jacqson Diego.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
I use the Pomodoro technique and do forty-minute writing sprints followed by a twenty-minute break. I can do five or six of those in a day and get quite a lot written. I also require a steady flow of tea and biscuits as well as my noise-cancelling headphones and my bullet journal to make notes and sketches.
What is your current or latest read?
I’m currently reading Montgomery BonBon by Alasdair Beckett-King – I absolutely love it! “Murder is frowned upon” – hehe.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
I’m working on the fourth Jam Factory book at the moment, but watch this space for something new!