To kick things off though, a few words from the man of the hour himself...
|Dave Cousins hard at work on his Acme Machine...
What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
The Machine-Gunners by Robert Westall. If there’s one book that made me want to write, this is it. I loved this book from the moment I first picked it up, aged eleven. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it since. Even though it was published in the early seventies, the quality of the writing and storytelling means it still feels as fresh and exciting as ever.
What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?
Difficult question! There have been so many great books published in recent years it’s impossible to choose just one. I recently enjoyed Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan and Grounded by Sheena Wilkinson. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Sara Grant’s Half Lives, which is brilliant, and I’m really enjoying Slated by Teri Terry at the moment. I’m also halfway through re-reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s superb Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels.
What makes children’s books so inspirational?
To keep young people reading, stories have to really engage. There’s no room for self-indulgence, clichéd characters or lack of story. Secondly, I think the teenage years are a fascinating time to write about – filled with doubt and discovery – the time when we struggle to learn who we are and find our place in the world.
Why did you start writing for children?
Ever since I was quite young, my response to things that happened to me, or stuff I heard about, was to turn them into stories, songs or drawings. Many years later, inspired by some of the fantastic books I’d read, I decided to sit down and have a go myself! The fact that the stories I find myself writing always have a teenage character at their heart makes me suspect I’m still roughly thirteen in my head!
What made you want to write this book?
To keep going for the length of time it takes to write a book, I have to really care about the characters and the things that are happening to them.
Waiting for Gonzo started as one of many ideas that sat around in a notebook for years, before my narrator Oz arrived and transformed the spark into a story I wanted to tell. Once characters come to life a story gains its own momentum and I have to type fast to keep up! I knew I wanted the book (and Oz’s character) to make readers laugh, but there were also some serious things happening to the characters. Getting the right balance of humour and heart was quite a challenge.
What’s your favourite aspect of writing for children?
Being a writer is my dream job, but one of the most rewarding aspects of writing for young people is getting the chance to meet and talk to readers.
Teenagers are too often demonized, but I’m constantly inspired by the humour, ideas and enthusiasm of the students I meet in schools. I believe that sharing stories is hugely important, and it’s great being able to play a small part in this process.
And to top it all off, you can also win a signed copy of Waiting for Gonzo! Just email us at SpaceOnTheBookshelf@yahoo.com with the name of the book in the header. The winner will be drawn on Friday 10th May - good luck!