An author I met recently in Bath (not a bath, I hasten to add), Mel Menzies, asked me recently if I’d like to be part of a blog tour. I have to confess I didn’t know what she meant but a little explanation made it all clear. A chain of authors write some interesting answers to the questions below then link to two more authors in their post. Sounds easy, so let’s give it a go!
The tour was the idea of author Fay Sampson so well done, Fay.
What am I working on?
I’m actually working on several books at the moment – it’s an amazingly busy year. But since the one foremost in my mind is my first children’s novel, Prankenstein, I’ll focus on that.
For some time I’ve wanted to write a story for kids that would appeal to the sort of child I was when I was about 10: something funny with a good story and a twist or two. I think there aren’t enough novels out there that appeal to boys in particular (especially reluctant readers) so I’ve set out to do something about it. Prankenstein is the tale of a boy called Soapy who lives in an immaculate house under the thumb of a strict, safety-obsessed mother. He dreams of playing pranks but doesn’t dare: the consequences are too awful to contemplate.
Then, after he spends a night at his granny’s, Soapy’s world is turned inside out: for a start, someone has turbo-charged her stairlift and shot her through the roof. Then, someone is playing incredible, outrageous pranks on his family, friends and neighbours, but who is it?
Soapy sets out with his Estonian pals Arvo and Loogi to investigate. They discover something truly shocking…
Prankenstein is published in September by a new name in publishing, Fat Fox. They are looking for new writers, BTW…
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Good question. There are a lot of children’s novels out there and many good ones. I suppose one thing that sets it apart from a lot of books is the humour – I like wacky ideas and the sort of cheeky wordplay that gets kids giggling. But I also like a good story and I think Prankenstein doesn’t veer off too far in the nutty stakes: the characters are believable, the settings realistic and there’s enough tension and mystery and action to keep the reader turning pages (I hope!). So, I would say it’s about finding that balance between humour, plot, intrigue, relevance and appeal.
Why do I write what I do?
Cor, these are tricksy questions for a Monday morning. Why do I…. Well, for a start I love writing humour and this book gave me the platform for using several comic ideas that I’d been playing around with for some time. My other great drive for getting this book out there was my strongly held belief that reading for pleasure is profoundly important for children. So many kids are losing an interest in reading and it’s hardly surprising – just think how many distractions are there are today. It used to be just TV but now the web, video games, mobiles, handheld games, ipads, consoles… the list goes on. The other big factor is that so many parents don’t read themselves.
So, books have to be spot on to appeal to children. My recent funny fact collection, The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff is another title written to grab those children who struggle with language (and thinking and school and all sorts) because they don’t read.
But I also write because I have an urgent desire to tell a good story, to share a good joke, to elucidate a fascinating piece of information. I love the freedom and creativity of writing. What a job.
How does my writing process work?
I do spend quite a lot of time planning. But there comes a point where you just have to start – to write. Get it down on paper/screen then step back, leave it, read it critically, apply those criteria and see if it works. Then tweak. I am not a fan of rewriting so I try REALLY hard to get things right (or nearly right) first time.
In the case of Prankenstein, I jotted down the kernel of the story which popped into my head one day when I was riffing on the name Frankenstein. What about a prank-playing monster who drives a town mad? The central character is vital and I spent a while getting to know Soapy and writing a profile of him: his likes, his loathes, his habits and foibles, his patterns of speech. It’s a good idea to do this for protagonists and other main characters, and for the baddies too, of course.
Dialogue is a huge part of story for me and I make sure it moves the story along, elucidates the characters, entertains and informs and reveals nuggets which get the reader thinking. Reading it aloud is a good trick.
The pace of a story is important and so I tend to use shortish chapters and cliff-hangerettes to maintain interest. I like to lead the reader down garden paths and invites guesses as to what’s happening. While doing all this it’s a good idea to enable your audience to relate to the characters too – even antagonists should have some redeeming features.
Finally, children love to have fun, especially at adults’ expense so I make sure that youngsters like Soapy stay one step ahead or get their own back in clever, amusing ways -the reader wants to imagine himself or herself doing that naughty, smart, rude, hilarious thing…
Right, where next on the blog tour?
Try these two talented writers who should be answering the same questions by Mon 26th May:
Ben Jeapes: http://www.benjeapes.com/index.php/blog/
Sorry I've only just picked up on this, Andy, as I've been away. Must say I LOVED reading what you've written. I can hear your voice, your humour. With a 9 year old grandson (twinned with his sister) who has loves a good laugh, I have a feeling that Prankenstein might be on my shopping list, not to mention The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff.
Can't wait to hear what Ben Jeapes has to say next Monday..