Monday, 16 September 2013

Me Then And Me Now

DFB authors and illustrators were asked this question for their latest round of blogs.

I’m interested in the connections between our child selves as readers, and our adult selves as writers/illustrators.  Can you remember the stories you most loved when you were a child?  Do they connect at all to what you do now?  What would Child You think of what Adult You is writing now?

Here is my response:

I never have been a very sophisticated reader. As a child I loved the usual comics, The Dandy, The Beano and Beezer. My favourite comic characters were The Numskulls – I was enthralled by the idea that our insides could be populated by little people, peering through telescopes from our eyes, directing operations over telephones whilst others shovelled piles of food down hatchways into our stomachs. I found it entirely believable, and still think it a wonderful idea.

To think all this is going on inside you!

In a comic called Look and Learn, Mary Norton’s ‘The Borrowers’ was serialized, and I loved these little people too, scurrying about behind the wainscoting and under the floorboards. A magical and entirely believable world was created and I’ve been a fan of alternative places and parallel worlds ever since.

I was a huge fan of Alfred Bestall’s Rupert Bear annuals, another creator of a magical land. You never questioned the fact that walking, talking forest animals lived alongside jungle creatures and human beings, where a walk through the wood could lead you to a tower where a magician lived and miniature dragons fluttered about breathing little plumes of fire. One of my treasured possessions is a Rupert book from 1938 that belonged to my mother. Written and illustrated by Rupert’s creator, Mary Tourtel, it doesn’t quite have the magic of Bestall’s later stories but the ingredients are definitely all there.

A very precious possession

From these early comics, via Wind In The Willows and Tintin, I began to read Enid Blyton’s Adventure series. I know she comes in for a certain amount of criticism now, but I devoured this series, and can still recall the thrill of reading them. I only have to look at the cover of The Island Of Adventure to be transported out onto the waves, heading for the Island of Gloom. Terrific!

Terrific stuff!

Then, during a short stay in hospital for an operation, my mum bought me the boxed set of C S Lewis’s Narnia books. It was only when I read these books that I realized the power a book could have, and I think from that moment on I wanted to be able to write my own stories and create my own worlds.

This book changed everything for me

When I was about twelve my dad gave me an old book of his, and this too made a lasting impression on me. Written by the thriller writer Dennis Wheatley, it was presented as a crime dossier, typewritten with poisonous tablets, torn up photographs, newspaper reports and all sorts of evidence glued into its pages. The reader had to solve the crime from the evidence supplied before breaking a seal at the back of the book to see if it matched the real solution.

Really exciting stuff!

This book had a direct influence on my Charlie Small and Alfie Small books, where these intrepid adventurers stick all sorts of finds and proof of their adventures into their journals.

The glass eye of the Steam-powered Rhino, proof of Charlie's encounter with this magnificent mechanimal!

The pirate's pipe, proof of Alfie's encounter with the notorious Captain Bonedust

So, I think there is a direct link between what my child-self read and what my adult-self writes, although I’m really not sure what my child-self would make of my efforts!

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