Friday, 21 June 2013

Talking Zombies - Interview with Charlie Higson

So for my first face to face interview with a children’s author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Higson. Yes Charlie Higson, singer in The Higsons, Fast Show creator, writer and star and writer of the hugely successful Young Bond books. Like all budding journalist I researched, by reading one of Charlie books, The Fear, the third in his Zombie Horror series. My mistake may have been reading this before bed the night before the interview (when they say zombie horror they’re not kidding they do exactly what they say on the tin) so I looked aptly rather Zombie-esk! Charlie was lovely and we had a great interview, and minutes later he trotted off to do the first of three school event that day to a total of 1000 children.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

I used to read a LOT, but I can’t remember what. Many of the books were good historical stories. But if ii were to choose one it would be ‘The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm’ which were written by Norman Hunter, in the 20’s about a mad inventor, the stories still work today and I read them to my children.

What was your favourite children’s book as an adult?

I’m a big fan of Phillip Reeve and I think that Mortal Engines are a brilliant series. I think that they should be more known than they are. The first Mortal Engines book is my favourite.

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

What is exciting about writing for children is that they haven’t read many books. The Young James Bond book being for the age where they are first reading for themselves. So that your book may be their first exciting book, which is a great reasonability.

Would you consider yourself as being a writer first - performer second or a performer first – writer –second?

A writer first. If anyone asks me what I do I say a writer. Everything I’ve ever done has started with writing. I would always choose writing over acting, I love writing.

The Sacrifice is book 4 of The Enemy series of Zombie Horror books. Zombies seem to be having a comeback (almost said coming-back from the dead!). Do you think Zombies have stripped vampires of their crown of being most popular un-dead creatures?

I think they probably are at the moment, and when ‘World War Z’ [Zombie pandemic movie starring Brad Pitt for release in UK cinema’s in June 2013] comes out later this year it may be the end of that.

The Vampires and Twilight got a back lash due to being so successful. Saying that Vampire books still outsell zombie books.

The good thing about zombies is they appeal to both boys and girls. But boys don’t do vampires due to Twilight.

Are your zombies more Folktale/ mythological or more Hollywood inspired?

Everything really. They are classic monsters in the sense of what scares very little children. If you look a fairy tales they have ogres and giants and children heroes. Children dealing with an adult world. Monsters are big and scary. They are adults dressed up. Lots of the fairytale stories are cannibalistic, as they are from a time of famine where it was possible could be eaten by people.

If you write anything where your characters act like zombies you can’t ignore the zombie films like George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ which was the first cannibalistic zombies, before zombies were all voodoo zombies. But I gave it something of my own: Kids vs Zombies. My zombies are not resurrected corpses. They’re Sicko’s in my books.

What’s your favourite thing about zombies?

A -They’re Frightening for me. They've always been the most scary of the screen monsters, as they’re human, plus you’re against the mob.

B – Zombies leave themselves open for social satire – always a good way of looking at the herd mentality of human beings. My books are a satire of growing up, the idea that you have to kill the old king to bring youthfulness to the kingdom.

You also write the young bond series. Would you consider yourself as a writer of boy’s books?

YES. It was one of the reasons I wrote the Young Bond Books in the first place, as I had three boys of my own, and I know the difficulty of finding book to excite them and so on.

I have pretty strong female characters in the books and a lot of girls read them to. In The Enemy series girls read them as girls love horror too, and again it’s got strong female characters. There’s a lot of strong emotions to, of losing people. The girls like the emotional side and the boys the action.

I think the good thing about writing for boys is that if you do it properly girls will read them to. Boys however are reluctant to read girls book.

Have you ever done a George Peppard from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and sneakily signed one of you books in a library or bookshop?

Not without being asked. Of course when Breakfast at Tiffany’s came out in the 60’s there was no way of signing books or meeting your readers.

Waterstones have been very supportive as have independent booksellers, displaying and promoting my books well. I sign a lot of books. Once I signed 6000 books in one sitting, it took a team of six of us (some opening, some passing, some taking them after signing) five hours!

What I looked like the day after reading The Fear. . .


  1. Brilliant interview Sally!
    Charlie Higson Fantastic! It's really interesting that Charlie says what's exciting about writing for children is that they haven't read many books so writers have a big responsibility in that their book may be the first exciting book a child has read. The memory of the the book we first read under the sheets by torchlight is a precious one. I think mine was probably Five go Adventuring again.

    1. Hi Jan,

      Charlie was lovely and I thought that his comment about the children not having read much before and the responsibility is a really an interesting one, and certainly not one I'd given much thought to before. Sadly i can't recall my break through book, there must have been one though!


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