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…just read the answers to a bunch of questions that have already been asked.
How many books have you written?
72 and counting.
What’s the first book you ever wrote?
An educational book called Ricardo Swaps His Lunch. I wrote it in 2000. My first ‘trade’ book was Maxx Rumble: Crunched! It was published in 2004.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing for most of my life. When I was a teenager I wrote poems. When I was a young adult I wrote songs and comedy. As a not-so-young adult I have written radio scripts, TV scripts and even advertising copy. But it wasn’t until I was about 37 that I wrote my first children’s book. And I haven’t looked back since.
Why do you like writing books for children?
I’m not absolutely sure, but I think it’s because I have never fully grown up. I make very silly and childish jokes with my own kids. Sometimes, I am more childish than they are – and they’re children! Actually, they are starting to outgrow my humour – which is a problem, because I seem to be stuck with it. Basically, I think I am still quite a lot like a child, so I find it fun to write for children.
Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas are everywhere. I get ideas from the people I meet, the books I read, the radio shows and podcasts I listen to, TV, films, newspapers, friends, family, everyone and everything. I see ideas when I’m walking in the street. I overhear ideas when I am in a crowd. I am always steeling ideas from my children (sorry kids). It’s like I’m surrounded by ideas! The hard part is knowing which ones are worth noting down and using – then working out how to combine them in a new and interesting way.
Are the characters in your books based on real people?
Some of my characters are partly based on real people, but most aren’t. Sometimes, I really like something about a person I know, so I include that likable trait in a character’s personality. But I don’t ever take the whole personality of a real person – I just take a few choice bits. At the same time, lots of my characters are not based on any real people. They’re just made up.
How do you invent characters that will appeal to children?
The first thing I do is try to make my characters funny. I think that makes them appealing. I know I find funny people very appealing.
I also tend to make them enthusiastic. Maxx Rumble is extremely enthusiastic about sport and telling stories. That’s why he sometimes gets a bit carried away when he’s telling stories about sport. It’s also why he sometimes exaggerates. He just wants the story to be as exciting as possible – even if it’s not entirely true.
Josh and Phil Undy are also very enthusiastic. They love life, and playing games and winning – but not so much that they cheat. I think their enthusiasm and love of life makes them appealing to children.
Who are your favourite writers? And favourite books?
My favourite children’s authors (in no particular order) include:
- Dav Pilkey
- Paul Jennings
- Roald Dahl
- Eoin Colfer
- Charles Dickens
- CS Lewis
- Andy Griffiths
- Dr Seuss
- Stan and Jan Berenstain
- René Goscinny
- Oh, and my wife, Jane Godwin!
My favourite children’s and young adult books include:
- Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger,
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Big Honey Hunt by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axline
- and many, many more.
What do you use to write your books?
I take notes in a journal, then write on a computer. I have a Mac, even though I used PCs for years.
What is your favourite food?
My favourite foods are sashimi (Japanese raw fish – yum!), salmon (I eat it several times a week), chocolate (I have to stop myself from eating it every day!) and mangos (which are messy).
What are your hobbies?
I love watching, listening to and reading about sport. I particularly love Australian Rules Football and cricket. I love listening to music, particularly pop and rock. My favourite bands include the Killers, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen, Blink-182, Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and The Clash. I also love reading and listening to talking books. And I enjoy walking with my iPod and listening to audio books, podcasts and music.
Do you have any pets?
We don’t have any at the moment, but we have had a cat, two guinea pigs and many goldfish.