Posts Tagged ‘book author’

Lovereading4kids Q & A with Andy Griffiths

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths is the author of the hilarious, incredibly popular and seemingly unstoppable large Treehouse books. We tracked him down to ask him a few questions. Find out more below.

 

What were you like at school?
I really enjoyed school—had a lot of fun with my friends and my teachers often commented that I had a good sense of humour. When I was in Grade 4 I found an old typewriter at a junk shop and taught myself to touch type. I wrote and printed a magazine which I used to sell to the kids in my year level.

 

Were you good at English?
Yes, I loved reading and had a natural interest in language—particularly playing around with words and ideas for comic effect.

 

Which writer inspires you the most?
Well, I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland/Looking Glass books. The combination of philosophy, wordplay and sheer nonsense has always amused, excited and inspired me.

 

So, tell us a little about the Treehouse series and what inspired you to create it?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Terry, the illustrator, for twenty years now and together we love entertaining each other and seeing just how far we can push our humour. The treehouse series grew out of this process of constant experimentation and play. And, I guess, my love of Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’ books were probably responsible for the idea of a magical tree filled with unpredictable things and people.

 

Give us an insight into the latest book in the series, ‘The 78-Storey Treehouse’? 
It’s all about a Hollywood director coming to the treehouse and attempting to make a blockbuster movie. Needless to say it all goes horribly wrong in an horribly entertaining way. Oh, and there’s spy cows. A spy cow on every page in fact.

 

How do you and Illustrator Terry Denton make the words and illustrations come together so perfectly? 
It starts by me throwing Terry a few ideas and then him responding by drawing some pictures of those ideas which helps me to develop the ideas further and then his drawings become more detailed and include elements I hadn’t considered so I have to change and develop the story accordingly and so on and so on. The process takes a whole year for each book and Jill, my wife, editor and co-writer is there helping us to sort it out at every step of the way.

 

What made you want to choose this theme for the story?
Everybody is always asking us if the treehouse books are going to become a movie but, given the dreamlike structure of the treehouse and everything that happens there, we’re not so sure it would be even possible to make a movie and we’re not in any hurry. Our ambivalence about the treehouse series and movies is reflected in the plot.

 

What are you working on at the minute?
The 91-Storey Treehouse: Andy and Terry have to babysit Mr and Mrs Big Nose’s grandchildren. What could possibly go wrong (apart from everything?!)

 

How much research do you do?
I am constantly reading books, watching movies and keeping my eyes open for potential levels and story ideas.

 

Do you write full-time or part-time?
Full time.

 

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I like to begin each day with an hour of reading, an hour of exercise and then a good breakfast. I generally aim for around 5-6 hours of writing most days, with the evenings free to just mess around and read some more.

 

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No, sometimes it comes fast and other times painstakingly slow. I generally know whether I’m on track to deliver the manuscript on time, and if not, I need to work harder until I’m back on schedule.

 

Where do your ideas come from?
Absolutely everywhere. But reading extensively is one of the best ways to encounter a never-ending kaleidoscope of ideas.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Rewriting it for as many times as it takes until it’s as clear and as funny as possible. The rewriting process never stops and occasionally it can become quite exhausting. But it’s one of the most important parts of the process.

 

What is the easiest thing about writing?
Sitting around pitching silly ideas to Terry and Jill. Occasionally one of the ideas is so outlandish that it sparks a whole new level, character or plot.

 

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction for at least two hours every day. My all time favourite authors are Lewis Carroll, Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton, Franz Kafka and JD Salinger.

 

What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m reading ‘As I lay Dying’ by William Faulkner and revisiting some of the short stories of the southern gothic writer, Flannery O Connor.

 

What is your favourite book and why?
As per question 3: Well, I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland/Looking Glass books. The combination of philosophy, wordplay and sheer nonsense has always amused, excited and inspired me.

 

Do you have a favourite genre?
Comedy!

 

What is your favourite quote?
‘A man’s got to know his limitations’ – Clint Eastwood in one of his ‘Dirty Harry’ movies.

 

What is your favourite film and why?
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. A fantasy wonderland of complete nonsense starring one of the funniest comedic characters ever created.

 

Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
At this rate—adding 13 storeys to our treehouse each year—I’ll probably be working on the 156 Storey Treehouse.

 

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stay away from man-eating sharks.

 

Do you have a favourite positive saying?
When the chips are down, go eat some chips (Read the 78-Storey Treehouse and you’ll understand.)

 

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Actually, I met a lot of famous dead people when I went time travelling in the wheelie bin with Terry in the 65-Storey Treehouse.

 

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Because it’s perfect.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Research the type of books you love reading and direct your efforts towards learning how to writer your own versions. That way you’ll be gaining a huge amount of enjoyment and satisfaction. whether they get published or not,

 

Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Nowhere. Books still offer a particularly personal pleasure for the reader that movies and computer games—whatever their other merits—just can’t match.

 

How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Reading the books is the best way. And if that’s not enough you can visit www.andygriffiths.com.au

Meet the Illustrator – In conversation with Helen Oxenbury

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Helen Oxenbury chats to Shelley Fallows from Lovereading4kids.

I (Shelley) have a nine year old son.  Those nine years have flown by in a flash as I was warned they would and yet one of the most endearing memories I have of his younger years is reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, over and over.  The book had been a gift from a friend who also had wonderful memories of reading it to her by then teenage children.  This is the beauty of a great picture book, quiet moments shared with you and the child in your life that become special.  So it was an absolute delight for me when I was asked to interview author and Illustrator Helen Oxenbury on behalf of Lovereading4kids to celebrate the publication of Time Now to Dream written by Timothy Knapman which is packed full of Helen’s beautiful, illustrations.

Time Now to Dream is a beautifully atmospheric story about two young children confronting their fears and supporting each other as they explore a mysterious noise in the woods close to where they live.  Timothy’s prose is perfect for sharing with young ones as it gently explores the fear of the unknown and inspired the illustrations Helen has created.  Her instantly recognisable style fits perfectly with the story.  I wanted to gain a better insight into this mother and grandmother who has made such a great contribution to children’s books – she is even the creator of the iconic bear symbol that graces all of Walker’s Books. She has been drawing since she was a child, discovering her love for it when she was forced to often stay home from school due to asthma.

Where did you take your inspiration from as a child?

I remember drawing endless bunches of flowers.  We had a lovely garden with a pond which I spent most of my time with my hands in.  I had no fear of frogs or toads.  That’s what I remember mostly of my childhood.  We often had friends over who all fell in but my brother and I never did because we grew up around it and knew not to.

What was you earliest book related memory?

You have to remember it was during the war and you couldn’t get books, you couldn’t buy your own books.  My father worked for the East Suffolk County Council and they had a library.  There was a shelf full of children’s books.  It was just awful but these were the only books I had really.  The one I can remember, that I just loved was quite a big book of photographs of Shirley Temple in different outfits, such as red wellies, a yellow raincoat and big yellow hat.  The book was in lovely, bright colour.  All the other books were just black and white.  We were quite starved of books really.  We had comics such as the Beano which was printed in black, red and white but if you had one with colour it was just wonderful.

Can you explain a little about your creative process? For example which medium do you like to work with?

time-to-dream-3It depends on the story, depends on the text.  If it is something like ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ or ‘Time Now to Dream’ that involves a rather English landscape then I’ll use watercolour.  However when I did the illustrations for ‘So Much’ which is about a West Indian family, well it just didn’t seem right in watercolour because they wear these wonderful, vibrant colours, so I used gouache.  It’s usually the text itself that will suggest to one which medium to use.

 

Do you have a specific routine you follow when working and do you tend to draw every day?

I take a flexible approach depending on what I’m working on.  I don’t always draw everyday though.  There’s not always enough time.

 

Do you usually meet the author before you begin work on the illustrations for a project?

No never. I receive just the manuscript to work from and then meet the authors once it is done.

 

Where did you take your inspiration for the illustrations in Time Now to Dream?

I took a lot of walks on Hampstead Heath but not with a notebook, but I wouldn’t do any drawing at this stage.  I would then draw the pictures from memory.

 

Your drawings are wonderfully expressive, are the children based on anyone in particular?

They are a culmination of children based on the age of those who will be reading it.  It helps the children to be able to identify with the characters.  I love to try and put over the emotions the text invokes.  We have to enhance the text but not slavishly illustrate every word.  I also like to add a little something that features throughout the book.  In ‘Time Now to Dream’ for example there is a bird who appears all the way through.  At times you are unsure what his purpose is.  Is he a little sinister or is he watching over them?  It’s another element to talk about when you’re reading the book.

 

How closely do you work with the publisher on the finished book?

I work very closely with the art director on the book itself.  For example with ‘Time Now to Dream’ I didn’t want the foliage and text etc. to be on a white background so we chose a softer colour that supported the illustrations better and provided a softer, more comforting feel to the book.  I also like to include a mix of coloured illustrations with black and white images to also enhance the visual aspect.  Walker Books are particularly good at getting it right.  There is definitely a Walker look.

 

How important do you feel illustrations are to building a child’s love of books and reading?

time-to-dream-4Terribly important and not only for the reading but looking at things, giving them a sense of colour and form.  For example when they see a wolf they’ll recognise it for what it is.  I see them also as a stepping stone to reading.  Illustrations also make a book so much more interesting.

 

How vital do you feel the role of Children’s Laureate is to Children’s literature today?

Well, it certainly can’t do any harm especially if it gets more children reading!

 

Do you have any advice for parents who want to encourage their children to read?

They’re never too young to start.  It’s amazing how much they can absorb right away.  Holding books, looking at pictures, hearing the words and of course having that precious time with mum and dad.  Always make time to read.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, it has the most wonderful illustrations!

 

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

I am but I’m afraid I can’t say too much about them at the moment.  I still love what I do and will keep on doing it until I fall off my perch.

Author Talk. Pete Johnson

Friday, August 12th, 2016

howtoupdateparentsToday we’re very lucky to be joined by Pete Johnson, author of How to Update Your Parents.

Thank you for having me!

Hi Pete, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s get to know you a little bit. What were you like at school?

Erm…no comment!

Were you good at English?

Yes, very good!

Which writer inspires you the most?

That would definitely have to be Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations and I Capture The Castle. For me, the latter book is a masterpiece and it made me want to become a writer myself – one who could write as wonderfully and vividly as Dodie.

When I was eight years old, I wrote a fan letter to Dodie and we embarked on a long and rewarding correspondence. This only encouraged my new-found ambition of becoming an author.

So, what have you written?
In this series so far I’ve written How to Update Your Parents, My Parents Are Driving Me Crazy, How to Train Your Parents and My Parents Are Out of Control. Outside of those, I’ve written more than 50 books for many different publishers, including The Cool Boffin, Faking It and The Ghost Dog.

Give us an insight into your main character in this book. What does he/she do that is so special?

Readers love Louis essentially because of his happy personality and the fact that he is very funny. Kids are drawn to that.

What made you want to choose this theme for the story?

I chose this theme because it’s incredibly topical at right now. Social media and technology have become such a huge part of our lives. I wanted to explore what life would be like now if it was taken away from us, and how older generations deal with it.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’m currently working on my next Louis book, called How To Have Chilled Out Parents. Watch this space!

How much research do you do?

It depends on the book, but for How To Update Your Parents, my research mostly consisted of discussions with children, teachers and librarians on the topic. Everyone has an opinion or viewpoint on it!

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I’m lucky enough to be a full-time writer.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

Definitely the morning. I aim to start writing by about half past seven. It gives my day structure and allows me to be very productive! I find that if you have a set time and day to write, you will do it no matter how you’re feeling.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I like to aim for at least 1000 words a day.

Where do your ideas come from?

Life! There is no one source of ideas – everything and anything can inspire me.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest part is definitely getting started. Coming up with the initial idea is quite tough. However, once your idea is fully formed, it becomes much easier to start writing!

What is the easiest thing about writing?

I wouldn’t say any part of writing is easy – but it is rewarding.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?

How To Update Your Parents is the fourth book in the Louis the Laugh series. They’re comedy books which focus on Louis, his friends and their various problems and mishaps involving their parents. They’ve been extremely popular so far!

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

As you can probably guess, I love reading. I have too many favourite authors to list here, but I’ll name a few. As a child, among my favourite authors were P.G. Wodehouse, Roald Dahl, and of course Dodie Smith. Today I am a big fan of Anthony Horowitz, John Green, Louise Rennison, Hilary McKay and Phillip Pullman.

What book/s are you reading at present?

At the moment I’m reading Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare.

What is your favourite book and why?

101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith…for reasons I explained earlier in the interview. I love it.

Do you have a favourite genre?

I am a big fan of comedy, golden age and thriller books.

What is your favourite quote?

“The best is yet to be…”

What is your favourite film and why?

I love Brief Encounter for its romantic element…the same reason I love Casablanca!

Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?

I would like to think that I’ll still be alive!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I think I would tell myself to relax and to chill out a bit more.

Do you have a favourite positive saying?

“We’re here for a good time, not a long time!” – Damien Hirst

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

I would love to meet Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant. They are both so charismatic!

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

I would love to have written House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne. The characters just bounced off the page and in to my head.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I cover this in more detail on my website at http://www.petejohnsonauthor.com/about_pete.html but one of the more important points for me would be to remember to have fun with it. If it feels like too much hard work, then the scene isn’t working. Try something new and make sure you enjoy it.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

The biggest change in the industry in recent years has been the rise of the eBook, and I think that will continue to change things for a while yet.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: www.petejohnsonauthor.com

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Author Joanna Nadin discusses Books as beacons

Friday, February 12th, 2016

When I wrote Joe All Alone and its follow-up White Lies, Black Dare I had a checklist of “things I wanted to say” – about child poverty and child neglect, about toxic friendship and family breakdown, about bullying amongst children and adults alike. Fiction has the power to bring new light to these difficult subjects and illuminate not just gory details, but also paths out of the darkness, which is why I will always weave hope into a story, however bleak. But there is another idea lurking in both novels, one that paints books as beacons in a more profound capacity: that books make us who we are, and can change that too.

 

Books matter. Of course I’m going to say that: the ability to pay my bills depends on me writing and selling enough of them. But my belief in their transformative power goes far beyond personal monetary gain. And it’s not writers who think so. There are government studies that point to reading for pleasure as raising test scores in subjects as seemingly unconnected as maths and science. There is research that highlights how stories encourage empathy. But there is evidence too that books penetrate deeper than that, changing our very selves as they show us new ways to be, offering us a pick and mix menu of characters to incorporate into our own.

 

As a child I worked my way through an array of fictional role models – George from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Velvet Brown from Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet, even Pandora from Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. The academic Francis Spufford describes this appeal in his homage to the power of children’s fiction The Child That Books Built: “Be a roman soldier, said a book by Rosemary Sutcliffe. Be an urchin in London, said a Leon Garfield… Be an Egyptian child beside the Nile, be a rabbit on Watership Down. Be a King. Be a slave. Be Biggles.” In other words, reading helps us try out new lives for size. It helps us try out being better or bigger or just different people.

 

It was this in mind that I gave both Joe in Joe All Alone and Asha in White Lies, Black Dare books not just as background reading, but as talismans, magic amulets that would change the course of their lives on and beyond the page. For Joe, the eponymous Huckleberry Finn gives him the courage to face up to his situation. It helps knowing that someone else has been where he is – been alone in the world – before. It helps him work out who he wants to be – brave like Huck. It helps knowing that Huck finds a friend. It helps knowing that Huck can evade the adults who are closing in on him.

 

For Asha it’s Sodapop and Ponyboy in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders that drive her final dare and damnation, as well as her ultimate salvation. “So I do what I always do,” Asha says. “ I pick up my book and bury myself in story, glorious story. I read until it’s so real I can feel myself right there in Ponyboy’s house, smelling the eggs and chocolate cake he’s cooking for breakfast, and smoke from Two-Bit’s cigarettes. McCardle’s right, I think, that books get you through stuff.”

 

This is what books can do. They can teach us, they can show us the way. They can give us hope. And more than that they can make us. They have certainly made me – I am part George, part Velvet, part Pandora, and so many others besides. I am even part Asha now, and all the better for it.


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