Where did you grow up?
What were you like at school?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What did you do after you left school?
I went to work as a car trimmer in a mouse-infested asbestos hut with no sanitation (our toilet was a window in a secluded corner I'm not kidding). When it rained water flooded in and if you didn't keep the lid on your lunch box the mice had your sandwiches! After six years of this I finally came to my senses and I went to college and eventually university. Unfortunately insanity set in again and I was daft enough to become a teacher. At the time of writing I'm now in recovery and no longer work in schools.
Why did you begin writing/illustrating?
I couldn't read or write until I was seven and I can still remember that almost magical feeling when those strange angular symbols actually began to have a meaning. I'm not exaggerating, I remember that the letters literally suddenly started to make sense, almost as though a switch and been thrown in my brain and the light of understanding flooded in! After that I couldn't stop playing with words and their sounds and meaning. From little rhymes and word-plays I graduated to writing my first stories.
How would you describe your books?
Made of paper and kind of rectangular. (sorry!)
Adventure stories with characters that are usually baddies (i.e. werewolves, vampires etc.) in the goody roles! Add to that a sprinkling of teenagers with snotty attitudes and some hugely powerful talking animals that would make great pets and there you have it. Stuart's formula for (hopefully) enjoyable books!
Where do your ideas come from?
Mail order. (Sorry again!)
The brain's an odd thing, over the years it absorbs all sorts and types of influences (in my case books by Rider Haggard, Enid Blyton, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susie Cooper et al) and distils them into a spirit of its own making. Basically what I'm saying is that possibly every writer's ideas are the result of everything they've ever read, done, seen, experienced.
What is your ideal place and time for writing/illustrating?
My ideal time and place would be an oak-panelled study with hours of uninterrupted leisure in which to enjoy the process of writing. The reality is a little different i.e. a scruffy bedroom with a tired old laptop on which I desperately bang out a few paragraphs whenever I get the chance in a frantic day. Oh yes, and Mr B (my cat) likes to stuff his tail up my nose just when I'm coming to a difficult bit.
Which book would you most like to have written?
King Solomon's Mines by Rider Haggard.
What is your favourite film?
The Haunting the original black-and-white version made in 1964. Very creepy!
What is your favourite music?
Anything that isn't country and western or jazz. Particularly jazz!!
What is the funniest joke you know?
I prefer plain daft ones:
An' another mosquito.
What is your most precious memory?
Leaving school for the last time; once as a pupil, and then as a teacher.
What are you most proud of?
Getting my books accepted by Chicken House (honest!). And apart from that, going back to school/college after six years in a car factory and getting the qualifications I should have got when I was younger. (Yes I know this contradicts the previous answer!)
What is your advice for aspiring authors/illustrators?
Keep going and be prepared for a long apprenticeship. It can take years to learn your craft, and probably should.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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