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In the News - Sylvia Hall

Sylvia is the author of the Maya Brown Missions books. The first in the series, Circle of Fire, is about to be published and she has just finished the second. She wrote Circle of Fire while she was working at the Cedars school in Doha, Qatar. She is now back in England, working as a full-time writer. She lives with her husband, Colin, in John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool.

So, tell us about the book.

"Maya was adopted from Kosovo. She lives in London and goes to an ordinary comprehensive. One day her mother, who is head of a counter-terrorism unit, is captured by Islamic terrorists. Maya has information, but no one will listen to her. So Maya decides she will have to rescue her mother."

Sounds like a sensitive issue.

"Maya is of Muslim origin, but hasn't been interested in it. She goes to Leeds to rescue her mother and finds extremists, but also Muslims who help her and share her concerns about terrorism. It is a sensitive issue, particularly in schools with a big Muslim population. But it is something that needs to be talked about."

Have you written before?

"I began my career as a journalist, then moved to America with my first husband and our children and wrote a column about it for the Guardian. While I was there I wrote my first book, When You Can't Say No, about child abuse. Back in England, I trained as a teacher and wrote three books while teaching full time."

Has teaching helped?

"Young people like books that are pacey and full of adventure. Anthony Horowitz's book Stormbreaker was particularly good for a class of Year 8 boys I had. I thought girls should have something like that as well."

You've taught abroad a lot ...

"We lived in Derbyshire when I thought I was ready for adventure. The boys had left home and Hannah, my daughter, was in sixth-form. I've taught in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Egypt and Qatar while putting the children through university."

What's it like living in John Lennon's house?

"It's as it was during John's childhood in the late 1950s, when he lived here with his aunt and uncle. We have our own bedroom, but when the visitors have gone we can use all the rooms. We do have to put the DAB radio away afterwards."

Any circular plot developments?

"My daughter Hannah is a teacher. She's got a job in the school where I met my husband, Colin. She's arranging for me to come in and do a talk there."

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