Ask Michael

Okay, okay, I’ll answer your questions!

Go to the bottom of the page to ask your personal questions or…

…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
  • RenΓ© 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.

 

  • Hi Michael (hey you’re not me are you?). I’m working on a heap of things right now. I’ve got a comic-horror-weird-action series on the go. And a series about a boy called Mack McCoy. And a secret Maxx Rumble thing that I can’t talk about at all just yet, or even hint at on the Maxx Rumble pages of this site! Thanks for your question Michael.

  • I am, Holly. I’m married to another children’s author in fact. Her name is Jane Godwin and she’s written many amazing books, including ‘All Through the Year’ and ‘Today We Have No Plans’. I’m a very lucky guy!

    • Hey Charlotte. Hmm? That’s a tough one to answer. I actually love all of the series I’ve written (Maxx Rumble, The Undys and Ted) . They’re a bit like my kids – each one’s different from the other, but I love them just the same. Let me know if you have a favourite. πŸ™‚

    • That’s great to hear, Charlotte! Good on you. If you feel like saying what you like about The Undys I’d love to know.

    • Great question Olivia. I love writing because:
      1. it allows me to express myself
      2. I’m really interested in language
      3. it’s way better than a real job
      3. it makes me feel calm and peaceful
      3. it’s fun, except when it makes you cry, but that’s actually fun too
      7. I’m not good at other things, like maths.

      Do you love writing too?

  • I do have to say that I have been writing books since I was in prep and I love it.

    Why do you love writing so much?

    • Aw, that’s so nice to hear! Thanks Olivia. I’m proud of those books because I think Ted is a sweet little guy … I mean bear … I mean toy.

    • That’s great Olivia! I hope you like them. I won’t give too much away, but there are two quite fun robbers in one of the stories!

  • the reason i love writing is
    1. you can use your imagination
    2. you can make- up silly characters
    3. its anything that you can writ about
    4 . its fun
    5. i just LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hi Matthew.
      That’s a great question. I think the character who’s most like me is Rexx Rumble – he’s Maxx Rumble’s little brother. He’s a little guy who’s very determined, which is sort of what I was like as a kid. As for the character I’d most like to be, I wouldn’t mind being Oscar Cramp (from the Undys). He’s not a great looking guy, but he’s got a big heart and he’s the 7th strongest man in the world! That’d be nice. πŸ™‚
      Cheers,
      Michael

  • I just finished reading DOG WARS and I am DESPERATE to find out what happens next. And is there a sequel? That’d also be nice. ????

    • Hi Matthew. A sequel would be great, but I just don’t think I can do it! It took me three years to write Dog Wars and I haven’t been able to bring myself to write a sequel ever since. I’m worried it’ll take just as long. Sorry about that. But what you might be interested to know is that Faydo was going to return to the dogs just as a much bigger war broke out. And he was going to put his knowledge about fighting to some good for once by leading Strongdog’s army to victory. Or something like that. πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed the book!!! M

    • Well, it’s a bit of a tough road, but it goes roughly like this:

      1. write something great
      2. get some trusted friends or family members to read it and suggest ways of making it even better
      3. make it even better
      4. go to a bookshop or library and look for books that are a bit similar to yours, especially ones for the same aged kids
      5. look inside a heap of books that are a bit like yours to see who’s published them (writing down the publisher and their website)
      6. visit each publisher’s website and search around for a page of instructions for ‘manuscript submissions’ or something like that
      7. follow their instructions, which will include an email or postal address to send your story to
      8. once your story is out, forget about it and start writing something new – that way, you won’t get too nervous or stressed waiting for your replies, and if you get rejected (which almost always happens!), you’ll be able to comfort yourself with the knowledge that what you’re writing now is WAY better than that old one anyway.

      Good luck with it Matthew!

    • Hi Matthew. Well it wasn’t easy to come up with the 24 games in the Undys. I got ideas from a number of places, including my memories of playing made-up games as a kid, lots of Internet searches for funny games and sports, and ideas from my own children and students and teachers. I tested out quite a lot of the games by playing them with my children. My son easily beat me at tow wrestling, because he has size 14 feet. Impossible to budge! πŸ™‚

  • dear Michael

    I met you at st pauls primary school in Monbulk today I wanted to no what is the new book you are working on and what is it called. also how long does it take you to write a book. and what is your favourite max rumble book called.

    • Hi Isabella!! I’m working on a couple of books at the moment, but I feel I should keep them a bit secret for now. The one thing I’ll say is that one of the stories I’m writing is called Crystal and Captain Schnicko. It takes different amounts of time to write different books – from a few days to a few years, depending on how long the book is and how many drafts I need to get it working well. And my favourite Maxx book from the ones that are already published, is Grand Final Fever. Thanks for your questions Isabella!!

  • Dear Michael,
    you came to Viewbank Primary School and we met on the 28/08/13 and told us some the team chants from max rumble and you ask the teachers if they like the one by the pirates an they said they did not like it it was to bad!!

    from Ashleigh!!!:):):):):)

    • That’s true, Asheleigh. That Pirates chant is about the meanest chant in the history of soccer, so I’m not surprised the teachers thought it was too bad. Funny thing is though, the kids seemed to like it. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Levi. I guess I’ve been a writer since I was a teenager – writing poems, songs, radio programs, TV shows, etc – but I started writing books shortly after a publisher asked if I’d like to give it a go. I’m very glad she called me, it’s given me an enormous amount of enjoyment every since!

    • I certainly did, Matthew. Especially as, even if it sold well, I wouldn’t have received any money for a year or two after finishing it. Best to always have a Plan B, particularly when it comes to money.

      Thanks for the question!

    • Hi Glen. I’m afraid we’re not doing any more Undys books for the time being. But there are six out there, so lots to get through! Thanks for writing!

    • I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed them, Glen. And that you’ve made it through all six. Maybe we’ll make some more in a while, but certainly not any time soon. Sorry about that. Hey, who’s your favourite character in the series? Mine is Oscar Cramp because he’s big and strong, but has a very gentle heart. And maybe Ricky Silva too because he learned to be brave.

  • Hi Michael, do you run out of ideas too? sometimes i do, whenever i cant think i just take a quick break and get some fresh air and sit.

  • I do run out of ideas sometimes, Mercy (?), and just get plain stuck at other times. That’s when I take a break and let my mind clear. Getting some fresh air is a great thing to do – as is just sitting, or even doing something around the house. The funny thing is, once you’ve stopped thinking about something for a while, the solution often comes very easily.

  • Hi Michael,

    Just wondering what children’s age (approx) do you recommend your books?
    Ted? Undys? Maxx Rumble?

    Thanks in advance,

    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole. Thanks for getting in touch. The age range for my books is quite wide, but as a general rule I’d say…

      Maxx Rumble 7-10 (although plenty of older and younger kids read them)
      The Undys 10-12 (but again, lots of younger and older kids seem to like them)
      Ted 6-9 years of age.

      I hope that helps. πŸ™‚

      Cheers,

      Michael

  • Hi Michael

    I am looking for books to get a 13-14 year old boy, who is a cricket fanatic, to read fiction. Do any of your books fit this age group bill? or, if not, can you help me with some suggestions,please?
    Many thanks

    Peter

  • hey michael i love your maxx rumble book series what do you think is better foot or cricket?

    ps: what charcter would you say maxx is

    cheers josh

    • Hey Josh. Thanks for getting in touch!! I’m so glad you like the Maxx Rumble books. I’m not really sure which series I like best – there’s actually a 3-book Soccer series as well, which I think might be funniest of all, but I feel quite proud of all three series so it’s hard to say which is the best. Do you have a favourite?

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by ‘What character would you say Maxx is?’, but if you mean what sort of person is he, I’d say he’s very resilient (that means he does not give up easily, he keeps going even when things look REALLY bad), he’s a big exaggerator (which means he gets a bit carried away when he’s telling a story and maybe doesn’t always stick to the truth – but only because exaggerating makes the story more fun and exciting) and he’s very kind-hearted, because he loves his little brother Rexxy so much.

      Is that what you were wanting to know, Josh?

      Thanks again for writing,

      Michael

  • Hi Michael,
    You came to my school this week and you were fabulous I now really want to read all of your book especially your new one so wrong

    • That’s wonderful, Dakota. I’m so glad you’re inspired to read more books!! I loved visiting your school by the way.

  • Hi Michael,
    You recently came to my school. Actually it was this week I think on Tuesday the 16th. You are really good and incredible I liked your football video by your daughter. I really want to read so wrong it looks and sounds good you are a really good wrighter at the moment I am now reading The Undies Wet and Wild it is good (well since Tuesday)
    Dakota

    • Hi Finn. I wrote my first books because an old friend started her own children’s publishing company and she was looking for new authors, because I’d already written some TV scripts for kids shows, she asked if I’d like to give book writing a go. I did and haven’t stopped ever since.

  • Hello Michael.
    I’ve just bought ‘Why I Love Footy’, a birthday request of my son’s friend. I love it and I’m not even that much of a footy person! My question is, are you going to write a cricket equivalent? I sincerely hope you do.
    Kind regards, Helen.

    • Hi Helen. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. Sorry it’s taken a while to reply – it’s been a really busy time.

      There is definitely going to be a follow-up to Why I Love Footy (maybe more than one), but I’m afraid the focus of the next one won’t be cricket. Sorry about that. It’s going to be something a bit more general, but I’d better not say too much just yet. πŸ™‚

      But, as I’ve been a cricket tragic all my life, I reckon that might come one day too.

      Cheers,

      Michael

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