Sunday 5 April 2015

Author to Author: Fleur Hitchcock Quizzes Sam Gayton

So Hercufleas is about a miniature hero – Lilliput had a miniature heroine – what’s with the miniature thing?
You tell me, Miss My-First-Novel-Was-About-Shrinking-Stuff! What is it with the miniature thing? With Borrowers? With Minpins? With Lilliputians? With (Honey-I-Shrunk-The) kids?

For me, though, it’s a kind of wonderful what if? It sets me wondering. How would you do such-and-such? What would so-and-so be like?

And I find if I wonder about something enough, if I feed my mind enough questions, then sooner or later, it spits out a story.

I’ve done two books about the miniature, now. And for book number four, I’m doing the opposite - The Gigantic... 

In Lilliput did you think long and hard about using slug slime to stick miniature Lily to the stairs or was it obvious?
Ha! I ran through the possibilities! Could she get a lift from a bee? Nope. Strap fleas to her feet and jump? Maybe. I went through a whole load of ideas. Slug slime seemed to be the most disgusting. So I went with it.
50% of book-writing is problem-solving. The other 50% is problem-detection.

Will there ever be a sequel to the Snow Merchant?
There are plenty of sort-of-sequels. Hercufleas is one. It is set in the same world, a few decades after… Lettie makes a (very) brief appearance.

The next book is a prequel to The Snow Merchant, set about twenty years before. It features some of the same characters - Teresa, Lettie’s Ma, is a young girl.

Also, I’ve just written a short story for the National Literacy Trust, that tells what happens to Noah from the Snow Merchant. You ought to be able to read that for free on their website, soonish.

I love to include old characters in new stories. It makes me feel like they really exist, and they don’t end when the book does. It’s cool to glimpse a main character in someone else’s tale. We’re all the supporting cast in everyone else’s lives, right? And it is exciting for me, because I feel like I’m creating a new world, and my world has a population that meet each other.

Do you write using music?
I used to. Sometimes it helps create a mood, doesn’t it? The downside is that the music creates all the atmosphere, and disguises the fact that the writing needs to work harder!

But some music can help give you a rhythm to work with. Novels are songs, sung in your head. They need a beat to them, and music can do that.

Who reads your manuscripts first?
Hmm. Well, once I have them finished, it probably goes in roughly this order: My wife. My agent. Me. My editor. My mum.

When you’re writing - who do you imagine you are writing for?
Myself, at first. But after that, for edits and stuff, I imagine the assemblies of the schools I visit. It can be useful. They sort of sit in your head as you read things back over, and you can tell when you’re losing them, and when you’re hooking them in.
These books are all firmly middle grade so I want to know - when you were 10 what did you want to be when you grew up?
Taxi driver.

Really?  And what books were you reading at that age?
Redwall by Brian Jacques. Star Wars books. Ray Bradbury short stories. 
And when you came home from school – what did you do?
Designed extremely complicated boardgames, and played Lego. 
So – on to that very important subject what is your favourite board game?

My favourite has to be an old Risk-type game, called Power. Me and my mate Steve Biggs used to play it. He always wiped the floor with me. You plan all your moves at the same time on paper, then play them all at once. It’s brill.

But I also love Avalon - which you have to play with a bunch of friends. You’re all Knights of the Round Table, and you all get cards with secret identities, and you have to form teams to go on quests for the good of Camelot. But some of the Table are evil minions of Mordred, and they’ll say anything to get on a quest and sabotage it..!

Sam’s new book, Hercufleas, (Anderson Press)  is hot off the press and available in all good bookshops.  The Snow Merchant and Lilliput are also published by Anderson Press.

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