Why do you write?
To escape. A few years ago, when I was working in dreary day jobs just trying to pay the rent, I was always writing, hoping one day somebody might notice what I was writing. When I got some interest from a Publishing House, I saw an escape route from the jobs that I didn’t like, so I made sure I took the chance when it came.
A few years later and I find the writing is now my job and I use it to escape from the real world. Escape to new worlds, with new characters.
Is writing your first love or do you have another passion?
I can’t really separate the writing from the drawing. I love them both and can’t imagine doing one without the other. It’s like trying to choose your favourite ice cream. Sometimes it’s vanilla, other times it’s strawberry, but most of the time you just want to slop one on top of the other and stick your face in the bowl.
What was the first book that made you cry?
As far as I can remember the only book that has ever made me cry was ‘The Book Thief’. I had no idea it was about to reduce me to a blubbering wreck; I didn’t know that it had affected me that much, but as I read the last word I just blubbed like a 3-year-old who’s just dropped his ice pop.
Ah, wait though…the other time was when I dropped my hardback, large-print copy of ‘War and Peace’ on my toe…
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Answering questions about writing.
Name a fictional character you consider a friend.
Mr Happy, James (the one with that huge peach) and The Grinch, because every Christmas Eve he reminds us/me what Christmas is really about. That’s a friend for you, that is.
Did getting published change your perception of writing?
Yes, I think my writing was a bit more carefree before I got published. Now there’s the slight concern that people won’t like or get what you write. Especially with me, as I write and perform a lot of poems, so I’ve always got that niggling little voice in my head asking me if I think people will enjoy listening to this or not. There’s many a time I thought I’ve written a great poem only to read it in front of an audience and it’s gone down like an overweight pigeon.
I’m not complaining at all though. It’s still the best job in the world! I think it’s important to continually remind yourself why you started writing in the first place. Forget the deadlines, marketing and all that jazz…that’s not why you wanted to do this. It’s simply about firing up your imagination and telling stories, that’s what it’s all about.
Who inspires you and why?
I’m lucky in that I get to visit a lot of schools doing workshops and presentations, so I get a lot of inspiration from the children that I meet. There’s nothing quite like speaking to your audience and getting ideas from them. I can think I’ve got a fantastically weird idea and then, after speaking to a kid for five minutes, they have dolloped a whole new layer of craziness on top!
Which book deserves more readers?
I guess the obvious answer is ‘Any of mine,’ so I’ll avoid that and say, ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver’. I visited The Congo a few years ago and the lady I was staying with told me I had to read it as it was one of the best accounts of living there, she had ever read. When I got home, nobody had heard of it, so I’ve been buying it for presents for every birthday since! It’s brilliant!
Do you have any friends that are writers? If so, do you show each other early drafts?
There’s only one writer friend that I would trust to show early drafts to. It’s nice to exchange ideas and get feedback, but the rest of them…NO WAY! They would tell me it’s no good then pinch my ideas for their own. You’ve got to watch out for most writers…they are a dodgy bunch…
Who or what are you most excited to see at Newark Book Festival in July?
I’m excited to see whoever is going to show up at my sessions! That’s the best thing about Book Festivals, meeting book fans and exchanging ideas and thoughts. The Newark Book Festival does look amazing though and I’m definitely going to find time to pop in and see other authors doing their stuff. I love being surprised by seeing somebody I don’t know then finding out how awesome they are. It should be a great festival and I’m happy to be part of it!