(Both) - Describe the collaboration process?
Isabel: It didn't really seem like work - we'd just chat and have ideas and talk about what the people are going to do next, and how they feel, and whether there should be another shipwreck and should we bring the whale in yet and what we want in the circus. Then mum writes it all down and I read it and tell her if it's any good. Then she gets stuck and comes to talk to me again. Lots of things get into the book - Mum's boyfriend Robert is a film composer and he wrote some tunes for my lizard Zizu and they ended up in the book too - they're the circus music and it's printed in the book so you can play it. And there's a Ghanaian nursery rhyme that my Grandma knows. And there are some really good maps and diagrams.
Louisa: That pretty much describes it.
(Both) - How/Why did you decide that the protagonist would be a boy?
Louisa: He just was. Some people are. (Actually it went like this: 'Tell me a story mum.' 'What about?' 'A naughty boy called Charlie'.).
(Isabel) - Where did you get your ideas?
Mum found one growing in the compost heap, all cold and sad and lonely in its little coat, so she brought it in out of the rain and now its blossoming. Also there's a little green fairy that lives in the old motorbike at the bottom of the garden and sometimes he delivers them on a silver tray.
(Louisa) - How does it differ from alone?
Constant access to another imagination. Someone else knowing the book and the characters as well as you do, and minding as much as you do about what happens. Someone to kick you when you get stuck, and say things like 'But he can't know that, he doesn't get the letter until after they've left the ship.' And 'four doesn't go into forty-two, actually'.
(Louisa) - There is a subtle call to activism in this book. How do you broach issues such as the environment with Isabel?
We talk about everything all the time, always have. She knows that it's stupid to waste plastic bags when they're going to survive for 100 years, in a hole in the countryside somewhere. She notices litter and filth and animals on the news that are dying out. Kids can see for themselves a lot of what's going on. I just try to answer her questions honestly.
(Both) - Since this story began as bedtime stories six years ago, how did you keep the story alive? Were you able to remember the details? How did the story evolve?
Anything worth remembering stays with you, and everything else just merges and evolves and comes back in a different form. You don't really worry about remembering details from long ago, because the story when it comes tends to come out in a rush. That said, there is a notebook now. And if a story needs 'keeping alive', you might as well let it die - either it's alive and kicking, all on its own, or you're wasting your time.
(Isabel) - What suggestions would you give kids on writing or collaborating with other kids on writing?
Read loads of good books. Then read loads more. Then write your story. (If possible get a parent to do the typing). Then read more. But don't pinch ideas, that's cheating.
(Both) - What is your favorite part of the book?
Louisa: I like the pages. I think Isabel prefers the cover.
(Isabel) - Do you plan on making writing your career path? / Louisa?
As a journalist/writer, how would you feel if Isabel took writing on as her profession?
Isabel: I don't know - I'm only ten!
Louisa: I'm a parent - I just want her to be happy. Totally unreasonable ambition for any human being.
(Both) - Do you have cats?
Nope - we're both allergic to them. There's some cats in our street we like though. Missy, who comes when Isabel calls her (it's not quite talking to each other) and Freddy, who's very cheeky and thinks all the catbowls on the neighbourhood have his dinner in them.
(Both) - How did you come up with the pen name? We know that the first part is your pet lizard, but how did you come up with your pseudonym?
The original Zizou is a French footballer - Zinedine Zidane, nicknamed Zizou. He was captain when France won the World Cup. Corder is from cor, latin for heart - Mum's last book was about the heart.
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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