“Reading Time” Interview (August 2012)

From READING TIME, Volume 56, #3 – August 2012

When I write it is a bit like knitting without a pattern. I start with a pair of needles and some wool (a main character and the bones of a plot) and as I cast the wool onto the needles something begins to grow. I knit a few tentative rows, not exactly sure what my creation may end up being, a scarf perhaps, or maybe a jumper, but because I am one to always finish what I start, I know that eventually I will have something to show for my efforts.

Have A Go, Henry! began quite simply with the idea of an eight year old boy, Henry, wanting to find a sport he is good at in order to make his parents proud. Somewhere along the line the knitting needles cast on a very sporty big sister and a kindly grandmother with an endless supply of sayings. Knit one, pearl one and you have Henry’s parents who mean well but aren’t perfect and a basketball coach who doesn’t mince his words when the team loses. So I guess I’m a realist, even though I write fiction. We might like to pretend that today’s sporting coaches are positive and encouraging all of the time and that parents always treat their children equally, but the last time I checked life just wasn’t like that.

Knit one, pearl one – the garment is beginning to take shape. Henry has a go at a few sports he hasn’t tried before and despite his parents’ attention being focussed on his sister and his basketball coach’s verbal tirade he continues to pursue his goal of finding a sport he is good at. It is about here that I add a pattern to the basic knit one pearl one creation and discover that my lovable Henry is made out of enduring sheep’s wool, not delicate, fluffy mohair …

I have memories of being introduced to new sports at school and the subsequent highs and lows of discovering which of them I could do and which ones I was pretty hopeless at. I was competitive by nature though – I think many children are – and when I unearthed a talent for athletics I also found character traits I didn’t know I had. I learnt that I could work hard, that I was determined and had the ability to persevere and push myself to achieve goals and that I could learn from both defeat and success. Interestingly, they are many of the qualities needed in order to become a published author.

As an author, I love being able to delve into my childhood memories when creating something children enjoy reading. I also get some of my ideas from my own children’s experiences. Watching my eldest son on the Playstation inspired my first published novel, Race For Home, about a boy who finds himself stuck inside a racing car game. Taking my youngest son trick or treating with friends sowed the seed for a Halloween themed picture book. Another work in progress is Be Brave, Boris! where Henry’s best mate finds a rather extreme way of overcoming his shyness problem. Perhaps that’s a little odd for this generation of confident, articulate children, but I’m sure there are still a few children about who might once have been described as ‘shrinking violets’.

I don’t know where the inspiration for my next book will come from, but that’s the delight in being an author. We don’t always know what unexpected gem will clamber from a remote corner of our brain, stimulated to do so by goodness knows what, and present itself for us to model, manipulate, coax, beat or knit into readable form and in my case without much planning. When that happens the outcome is often fascinating, sometimes quite surprising but always fun.