Meet some awesome authors!
We speak to some of our fave writers ahead of World Book Day…
Where do authors get their amazing ideas from? To celebrate World Book Day, we quizzed some wonderful writers about their brilliant books and the inspiration behind them. Plus they told us why they think reading is GREAT…
In The Eleventh Trade , Sami, a refugee from Afghanistan has his instrument stolen and must try to get it back with no money and nothing to sell.
Where did you get the idea for this moving story?
“I asked myself: How do you heal when you lose something you will never be able to replace? I wanted to search for an answer through a story. I combined this search with the concept of trading, something I enjoyed doing as a kid. That would become the heart of my plot, while my core question became the heart of the book.”
Were you inspired by any real-life events?
“Sami’s tale was inspired by the Afghans I met in Afghanistan, my older sister’s work in the country, and by a terrorist attack on an American charity in 2014. Unlike Sami’s parents, my sister made it out alive. This book is an attempt to give a voice to the victims of war.”
Why do you think reading is important?
“Reading opens doors to experiences, places, and times you may never encounter otherwise. It can offer a safe space to process difficult concepts and feel complicated emotions.”
In your new book, The Day I Was Erased, the main character vanishes from his life. How did you come up with this amazing idea?
“One of my favourite films is an old black and white movie called It’s A Wonderful Life. The main character gets the chance to see what the world would be like if he’d never been born and then he realises all of the good things that he has done in his life. I wanted to write something with a similar theme, but for a younger audience.”
Are your characters based on anyone you know?
“I sometimes steal little personality traits from people I know which pop up in various characters. In The Day I Was Erased the dog, Monster, is based on my childhood beagle. He was really great to write!”
Why do you think it’s great to read books?
“When you read a book you really feel how it could be to walk in that character’s shoes. And if you read lots of books, you get to walk in a lot of shoes…”
In your first Wizards of Once book, two sworn enemies have to work together! Why did you want to write about this?
“I wanted to encourage empathy in my readers. The two children have to see things from another point of view in order to defeat a common evil. Empathy is what we need in these present times and it’s something that children are quite good at!”
Your books are so magical and fantastical. But are any of the characters or events based on real-life people or places?
“The How to Train Your Dragon books were inspired by the summers I spent as a child on a tiny, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. The island had no roads, houses or electricity, and I used to imagine that there were dragons living in the caves in the cliffs.”
Are you in the books?
“I put a lot of myself into the character of Wish, who is a determined, creative, imaginative person. Wish is an artist. Her loneliness makes her subconsciously bring the spoon to life. This is what writers do all the time. I do have a few Xar-like characteristics as well — I’m optimistic and I can be in a hurry, acting before I think. However, the characters take on a life of their own once you start writing them.”
Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
You wrote The Legend of Kevin together. What’s the best thing about working with another person on a book?
Sarah: “Doing research together! To come up with ideas for The Legend of Kevin we went to where Philip lives on Dartmoor and cuddled a lot of extremely cute wild ponies.”
Philip: “When we write together we come up with ideas that neither of us would have had on our own, which is really fun.”
Do you ever disagree about where the story is going?!
S: “Not really, although sometimes I’ll accidentally put a detail into the pictures that isn’t in the text, and Philip will rewrite the text a bit to work with the picture. And we had to negotiate a bit about the shape of Kevin; he started out almost rectangular in Philip’s drawing, then went full round balloon in my drawings, and now he’s a nice compromise sort of bean shape.”
P: “I don’t think we’ve ever seriously disagreed — sometimes I start taking it off in one direction and Sarah says, ‘Hang on, what if this happened instead?’, and if her idea is better, that’s what we do.”
Where did you get the idea for a roly-poly flying pony?
P: “Years ago, I painted a flying pony on a tiny piece of driftwood I’d found on Brighton beach.”
S: “He had it displayed on the wall of his kitchen, and when I saw it, I thought it would make a great book character!”
What do you hope readers take from this book?
S: “Biscuits! I really do wish our book had a biscuit dispenser like the Tardis so you could actually take biscuits out of it. But you have our authorial permission to insist your family supply you with custard creams while you read this book.”
P: “Also, Kevin! Sarah’s drawings of him are really cute. I hope a lot of people will get inspired to draw — and maybe write stories of their own.”
What is the best thing about reading?
S: “You get out of doing chores! Also, you can travel to the magical world Kevin lives in, and forget for awhile whatever’s going on around you (including chores).”
P: “It’s one of the best ways of experiencing a story, because the writer gives you the ingredients and your imagination turns them into pictures in your head. If a hundred people see the same film, they all see the same things, but if a hundred people read the same book, they’ll imagine it in a hundred slightly different ways. It’s incredibly interactive!”
Why did you decide to write about futuristic technology in your new novel, The Dog Who Saved the World?
“Simple — I needed a way to visit the future! We all have ideas of what a ‘time machine’ might look like, so I wanted something completely different. Dr Pretorius’s Future Dome is more like a super hi‐tech Virtual Reality game, which I thought was fun. And it is… until things start to go wrong!”
Are the characters (and dogs) in the book inspired by anyone you’ve met in real life?
“Well, there’s my own dog: a border collie called Jess. She’s loyal and loving, just like Mr Mash in the book. But Mr Mash is actually more like a Labrador I once knew who really couldn’t tell whether something was food or not: he would eat it to find out, with some very unfortunate results. Norman Two‐kids, the grumpy shopkeeper, is based on a park‐keeper when I was a kid. (Writers can wait a long time to get their revenge!).”
What do you hope readers discover, learn or think about as they read your book?
“I think very few people are genuinely unkind, but sometimes it takes a little effort to uncover their goodness. Also: our lives are made up of lots of decisions about how to act. It is sometimes easier to do nothing — but the harder, braver decisions often lead to much better outcomes.”
Why do you think reading is great?
“Alistair Cook, the journalist, once said that he preferred radio to television because “the pictures are better”. I think reading is like that: the writer creates an entire adventure, with places and characters, entirely in your head, and you don’t even have to go anywhere! Best of all, its either very inexpensive or – if you join a library – completely free.”
Where do you get the ideas for your characters?
“Akissi was inspired by my childhood spent in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Akissi is me! Her friends are my childhood friends, the whole neighbourhood was my home and the world surrounding me a giant playground. The reader lands right in the middle of the streets of Abidjan and the day-to-day life of this intrepid little girl.”
Why do you think reading is important?
“Because reading encourages children to come on board and visit unknown lands, in a relaxed and uninhibited fashion and discover a world that is so close, and yet so far. Reading helps us, old and young, to become heroes that fight fears, rejection and nationalism. It encourages brotherhood and tolerance and reminds us the benefits we can find in our differences and diversity. Reading simply gives us a real interest in people. It helps us understand the world.”
Onjali Q. Rauf
The Boy at the Back of the Class is about a young refugee from Syria called Ahmet who starts school in London. Are the characters based on any kids you know?
“Ahmet was inspired by baby Raehan, who I met when he was just a few weeks old in the Calais refugee camps. Unfortunately I lost trace of Raehan and his family after the official campsites were demolished, but I always wonder where he is and if he’s ok. Ahmet was my imagining of what might happen if Raehan came to the UK as a child of nine, without his beautiful family.”
What do you hope people will learn from your book?
“That the word ‘refugee’ is just another word for ‘human being’, albeit one who has probably gone through things that thankfully, most of us will never have to go through. And that these human beings deserve our compassion, friendship and trust.”
Why do you think reading is great?
“Reading opens up doors and windows in your mind, and can lead you into new worlds, enable you to make new friends and even live another life for a brief few moments. In short, it’s magic! There’s nothing else that can stretch the powers of your imagination so unendingly — not even films or computer games, which all have their limits.”
Being born with one arm hasn’t stopped Cerrie from being a TV presenter, playwright and author. In her latest book, a girl called Harper tries to solve the mystery of some missing instruments…
Where did you get the idea for Harper?
“From working with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. They made being musical look like magic and I wanted a character who had that gift.
“I’ve always found the harp spellbinding, so that’s how Harper got her name. Living in the City of Clouds I knew she would need an umbrella – and it seemed only right the umbrella would be enchanted…”
As well as penning award-winning kids’ books, Frank is a screenwriter for film and TV – including Doctor Who. He wrote the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, too. Wow!
How did you come up with the idea for The Astounding Broccoli Boy, all about a young lad who suddenly turns green?
“It’s a true story! Well nearly. I have a blood disorder that means I turn a bright custard yellow colour whenever I catch a virus or stay up late. When I was a child I was called the Custard Kid and when I was a bit older I was called Marzipan Man. When I came to write the book I just changed the colour to green. Green is more magical.”
Are any of your other characters based on real people?
“The Prime Minister is in the book too and he’s based on… the Prime Minister. Grim Komissky is based on a boy at my school who really did steal a penguin during a school trip to the zoo because, ‘it looked so sad in its little pond.’”
Best-selling author Liz has sold over a million copies of her award-winning Tom Gates books about doodling daydreamer Tom and his classroom antics.
Are your characters modelled on real people?
“Tom is like me when I was a kid — keen but easily distracted (I haven’t changed much really). My friend used to call her parents ‘The Fossils’ which made me laugh — so that became Tom’s nickname for his grandparents.
“Tom’s dad, Frank, has elements of my own father, who could be embarrassing. Especially when he’d turn up at my school wearing his bobble hat, muddy clothes and a piece of string instead of a belt (yes, THAT really happened!).”
Insect fanatic M.G. worked in the worlds of theatre and music before writing her debut novel Beetle Boy, the first of an exciting trilogy!
What’s the inspiration behind your book?
“I discovered how varied and cool beetles are! Because beetles are essential to our ecosystem, I thought it was time someone wrote a children’s adventure where the insects got to be the good guys.
“Darkus – the hero of Beetle Boy – is based on my son Arthur, and of course all the beetles in the book are inspired by real insects.”
A former ice-cream man and stand-up comedian, Jonathan is best known for his award-winning The World of Norm series about a geeky 12-year-old and his two brothers.
How do you come up with the stuff in the Norm books?
“By looking through the piles of hastily scribbled notes in my office. Proper old-school notes! On actual bits of paper!
“When I’m planning the next Norm I go through them all to see if anything’s suitable. It’s also no coincidence that Norm has two brothers — I have three sons myself so there are teensy bits of them in Norm, Brian and Dave. But I’m not going to tell you which bits!”
Ross’ stunning second novel The Nowhere Emporium explores what happens when an orphan stumbles into a mysterious shop in Glasgow.
Where do your ideas come from?
“Coming up with ideas is a little bit like going fishing. There’s lots of waiting about and thinking and grumbling. You know the ideas are in there. You just need the correct bait to tempt them out. And for me, the best bait to catch an idea is a question…
‘What would happen if?’
‘Why are things this way?’
‘How does that work?’
“Sometimes the ideas don’t bite. Sometimes they do. But very occasionally you catch an absolute whopper!”
Two brothers try to figure out why their dad made them move house in the middle of the night in Laura’s second book, The Boy who sailed the Ocean in an Armchair.
Are your characters based on yourself, or on people you know?
“It’s a case of taking little elements of myself and throwing them into a great big blender along with what I know about the world, what I imagine, what I dream of and what things interest me or make me laugh or cry. Then I mix it all up with exactly the same things that I think would come from my character, and in the end I’m left with a whole new person and that’s who the book is about.”