Fife-born author Anne Miller has missed being on trains. She penned much of her first book while journeying between London and Newport where her mum lives.
“I haven’t been up since last summer,” she says. “It’s the longest I’ve not been in Scotland.”
Travel can also be handy for her day job as an assistant producer on BBC Two quiz show QI, famed for its quirky facts.
She’s part of a team of researchers called the QI Elves who are instrumental in discovering all the wacky information that’s unearthed in each episode.
“I found out a QI fact from a train once,” she goes on. “I was coming up Dundee way and there was a child reading out facts from a comic. He said loudly: ‘do you know what cheese is made backwards? It’s Edam!’ I love stuff like that.”
Now based in London, Anne grew up in Newport and Tayport and attended Madras College in St Andrews then The University of Edinburgh. As well as having one of the most interesting jobs you could possibly imagine, she’s launching her second children’s book this week.
Her series is aimed at kids aged seven and over and it follows heroine Mickey, who loves a bit of code-cracking. This leads her to discover a top-secret animal spy ring.
We debunk things we think we know. Basically, we don’t take anything for granted.”
Debut novel Mickey and the Animal Spies was released just before the first lockdown and now it’s time for the next adventure, Mickey and the Trouble with Moles.
Around 1,000 school pupils from across Fife will take part in an online launch event for the novel on May 7. Book three will be released later this year.
“The book is a mixture of my love of animals but also spies, puzzles and code-cracking,” Anne explains. “I always like books that when you read them you get the story but you also get some knowledge.
“In the first book we did a lot of Morse code and in the second there’s a code that looks like a load of nonsense – but once you know it, it’s easy.”
“There’s so much information out there and if you can show the bits that are really fun – it’s a nice way of knitting it altogether. It’s kind of what we do at QI, too.”
Being an Elf
Anne has been a QI Elf since 2011: “I never really knew that was a job. If I’d known, I would have wanted to do it!
“What I always wanted was to be in a library with loads of books, making notes, throwing them into a wastepaper basket and trying again. Every day we are looking into something interesting and we follow our noses. You can start in one area and end up in some very strange places.”
Anne reveals that QI (short for Quite Interesting) host Sandi Toksvig is the only person who knows the questions for the show. These have to be kept secret from the panel, which features regular Alan Davies as well as guests.
“Each series, there are about a dozen elves and we are tackling a letter so we are looking for everything beginning with that. We do all the research and gradually we will put it together. We also debunk things we think we know. Basically, we don’t take anything for granted.”
Anne also works on QI’s sister BBC Radio Four show The Museum of Curiosities. “Basically we are really keen to find things out – and that’s where the Mickey books come from as well.”
She has always loved reading and her mum kept the first novel she ever wrote at the age of six: “I made it myself out of paper cut up into squares stapled together. It’s called Katie and the Rabbit and what’s so funny is it isn’t that different from Mickey and the Animal Spies.
“People often say ‘write what you want to read’ and I love animals, spies and puzzles.”
Growing up in Newport and Tayport Anne has fond memories of local libraries: “I even persuaded my parents to take me further afield so I went to Cupar Library – I think I was looking for more Baby-Sitters Club books!
“The books I would carry out of a burning building first are those I read as a child – that’s where my heart really is.”
My new children's book Mickey and the Trouble With Moles is out on Thurs May 6th! It's packed with puzzles and mischievous moles and can be found online here…
and many more! 📚🐾
— Anne Miller (@miller_anne) April 20, 2021