The Kidlit Interview Series
In her wonderfully-titled debut, The Case of the Exploding Loo, out now, quirky twelve-year-old Noelle (Know-All) Hawkins may be one of the brightest girls in her class, but even she can't explain how her dad, wacky scientist Big Brain Brian, spontaneously combusted while sitting in a portaloo. He was on the point of a giant breakthrough with his top secret Brain Ray machine when he vanished - could this have had something to do with his disappearance? Know-All is sure all is not as it seems and with the help of her sister Holly she is determined to find out what really happened to her dad.
Charlie Higson. He must have done a bit of zombie-related research for his books so he’ll know how to handle himself. Plus, he makes me laugh and it’ll be important to keep our spirits up now our brains are in danger of being nibbled on by zombies at any minute.
2) Look, I got a time machine on eBay! Where do you want to go? (Said time machine may possibly malfunction and leave you there. Possibly. It was *very* cheap.)
Glastonbury Music Festival, 1998. The year the poo-gulping-machine operator accidentally pressed ‘blow’ instead of ‘suck’ inside the dance tent. My friends were there, and it was their tales of poo fountains and airborne portaloo-contents that inspired ‘The Case of the Exploding Loo’. I’d like to see the poo-fest in real life (From OUTSIDE the dance tent. With a peg on my nose). Plus I wouldn’t say no to getting stuck in Glastonbury 1998 with Faithless, Primal Scream and Bob Dylan.
3) What's your favourite thing about writing for kids?
My favourite thing about writing for kids is that, ironically, it’s writing for me. My favourite books are all either kids’ books (Roald Dahl’s The Witches, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and everything Diana Wynne Jones ever wrote) or big kids’ books (William Goldman’s The Princess Bride Ian M Banks’s The Player of Games and everything Neil Gaiman ever wrote). So, as a children's author, I get to write and plot the kinds of stories that make me laugh out loud and light up the metaphorical lightbulbs above my head.
4) A witch has cast a spell on you (sorry about that) and you’ve woken up as a character in a children’s book – what’s your special talent or power?
Can I have a special talent for storytelling, like Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights or Lyra Belaqua from Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’? I don’t think I’d want any other superpowers. As a wise half-man, half-spider once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and I’m not very good at responsibility. Besides, it would be time-consuming having to save the world all the time. How often do you see Batman chilling on the sofa with a good book?
5) What’s the scariest or strangest thing you’ve ever done?
I once took my daughter to a Justin Beiber concert.
I also once had a job working in a men’s prison. I left when they asked if I wanted to go on a training course called ‘What to do when taken hostage.’ That sounds like a joke – it isn’t!
6) What’s something you wish you’d known about writing when you started out?
I wish I’d know how much more fun I’d have writing for kids back when I was trying to write for adults. I’ve always had a silly sense of humour and a lopsided view of the world. The minute I began writing as a geeky twelve year-old narrator, the words just flowed. Now, instead of staring at my keyboard in despair, I giggle as nonsense pours out of my brain.
What’s something you wish you’d known about publishing?
Hmmm... I still don’t really know anything about publishing! One thing I have discovered is how utterly lovely book folk are – agents, editors, illustrators, authors and publishing people in general. All squidgy and delicious, like home-made cookies.
7) What would your daemon be?
A walrus. A fat, happy creature whose main purpose in life is to burp and lie in the sun all day – what’s not to love? Those tusks! That ‘tache! They’re wise too – check out Lewis Carroll’s poem, ‘The Walrus and The Carpenter’ – “The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things...”
When I was younger, other kids used to ask their parents for a puppy or a kitten. Me, I always wanted a baby walrus. That’s why, when I set up a book blogging site with my sister, it was always going to be called ‘Book Walrus’.
8) My books don’t have dragons (or walruses), but they do have... exploding toilets, smoking shoes, malevolent maths teachers and malfunctioning brain rays.