This week's author interview is with Philippa Rae. Philippa talks about her latest book Harold Goes To School, her inspiration for writing, her tips for encouraging children to read and more!
Tell us about your book?
Harold Goes To School is about a boy called Billy and his pet monster, Harold. When Billy takes him to school for the first time he scares the other children. He looks very different to them and is so much bigger. The monster does his best to fit in but each time ends up breaking a school rule.
It is essentially a fun picture book with a moral tale. The illustrations have been drawn by Diego Cadena and his comic touches have brought the story to life
The format has also been designed so that everyone can read it. Tannya Derby at MacLaren Cochrane chose the font typeface especially to help children with Dyslexia. This font- Dyslexie -was designed by graphic designer Christian Boer.
Why did you want to write this story?
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard we try to get along with certain people we just do not gel. It could be that our personalities clash or we are not on the same wavelength. It is not always because anyone is right or wrong. Sometimes we just have our own individual take on things. And then of course, misunderstandings can arise. However, of course in reality, we cannot be liked by everyone!
I really just wanted to write something humorous. And at times, you have to do just that – see the funny side even when it can be painful! Though if I was Harold trying to help and yet kept being told off, I would be upset! The word ironic is probably the right word here.
I do (naughtily) find the idea of annoying straight-laced and proper people amusing! I guess a small part of me is a bit of a rebel. But then po-faced individuals having fun poked at them have been a staple of comedy for years!
In writing, we are able to do and say things that in real life we could not! Or would necessarily want to, I hasten to add in the case of unpleasant or villainous characters but that is the dark side to humour! Creative work can allow us to do that.
Fortunately in my story, Harold, does manage to prove himself and turn things around. Though he is a monster and looks scary, he is in fact a very nice fellow! And in the end, it is his size, which helps save the day!
Where do you find your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from reading other writers work. I notice when I have not read anything new for a while I tend to feel blocked. However when I set aside time for regular reading whether it be poetry, a novel or short stories I find that ideas begin to percolate. This seems to trigger the creative process.
Also, I have worked in team-orientated areas whereas writing is usually a solitary process at least initially. I find that brainstorming with someone you are comfortable with, is a great way to spark a new direction with a piece you are creating. In addition, when I have felt stuck in the past, I have attended a short course sometimes in a writing area outside my comfort zone. This can help you to see things with a fresh perspective.
What’s the most fun part of being an author?
Authors generally have to deal with criticism both from professional reviewers and people that read your books. That is part of the process. However many authors are the ones who are most critical of their own work.
Feeling stuck for a creative person is an uncomfortable and frustrating feeling. However when an idea does fall into place and the words start to flow, it can be a very enjoyable experience. I find it great fun to be able to create naughty or nasty characters or to be able to take an ironic viewpoint when things going wrong!
It is also lovely when you get a good response from someone and know that they have enjoyed your story. That is a real moment for me!
What’s your tip for parents to encourage reading or a fun book or reading related activity parents can do with their kids?
If you have children who are not keen on reading, then introduce them to some humorous poetry. There are some wonderful poets around and by giving them fun poems; the children will not feel like it is a chore. It is also a good way to get them to read regularly in small chunks so they do not get bored if they are impatient types who cannot sit still for long!
Many poetry narratives just look like fun but there is also an importance on the way language is used. So children will be learning without realizing it. Rhymes for example highlight certain words by the emphasis placed on them.
There are some good quality children’s magazines on the market in different countries that are also effective for this dip in and out approach. For example in Australia you have the School Magazine which as well as stories and poems, has interesting activities for children to do. The Caterpillar Magazine in Ireland also has a great selection of new work.
What’s your favorite children’s book of all time and why?
I don’t have a favourite book as I enjoy different elements from different stories. I do however like Roald Dahl stories. It is a wonderful achievement to be able to create something classic and timeless as he has done. His characters are wonderful!
I also like Dr Suess’s picture books. He is a proper wordsmith and I love the way he uses rhymes to play on language.
Different books will resonate with us in different ways and at different times in our lives. When I was a child, for example I loved the Enid Blyton stories set in schools such as St Clare’s or Malorie Towers. I guess because at that time being at school myself I thought it sounded fun to be at a boarding school. I enjoyed hearing about the adventures the girls got up to. I also like Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree too!
Philippa is an award-winning author and creative writer of short stories, poetry and non-fiction. Her work has appeared on BBC children's radio, in audio books as well as in anthologies and magazines around the globe. In her spare time, she enjoys learning about antiques, being involved in charity projects and going to the theatre.
You can buy Harold Goes To School here
Find more about Philippa and her books on her website.
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