Hayley Scott’s debut series Teacup House stars four tiny toy rabbits who live inside a beautiful Teacup House and come alive when no-one’s looking.
There’s a lovely and very convincing child’s point of view throughout Meet the Twitches. How clearly do you remember your childhood, what was it like?
Thank you! I really associate strongly with child me, I’m not sure why exactly. Lots of things happened, unusual things compared to the children around me when I was a child, but I do think that’s something to do with the amount of books I read and how narratives were always a big part of my life. My mum taught me to read before I started school, so it felt like stories were always there. I remember lots about my childhood. It wasn’t always easy, for lots of reasons, but my main memory of childhood is in the sensory details; a fold on my mum’s cords, or shape of the grooves in the wooden spoon in the kitchen, the smell of baking, collecting raspberries from the garden in a plastic bowl. I also remember periods of great sadness and loneliness, and for me, that was when stories and my imagination really came into their own.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
As soon as I realised that people wrote books I didn’t understand why anybody would do anything else. I was younger than five and we had those Garden Gang books by Jayne Fisher. There was a picture of her on the back, just a child herself, and I saw it and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do’. I think I thought it would happen at that age, but obviously that’s unusual! I’m glad I didn’t know it was unusual. I’m glad I saw that photo and thought, ‘Yes I’ll do that.’ The memory of how I felt always reminds me why it’s so important for children to see people like themselves in books – nobody in my family wrote or had been to university or anything like that. Seeing it was possible, made me think it was possible for me.
Little people/secret worlds are a popular theme in children’s books. Why do you think it’s so appealing?
Children are small themselves, so their perspective is different from adults. Things loom, high up, and also, they notice the tiny things on the ground which adults forget about or don’t see. I think there are so many things children don’t have power over, their whole world is dictated by rules set by people who are bigger and older than them, that the whole small words thing is a chance to have some autonomy, a chance to play and have fun and imagine, but also to have some kind of control over what happens, when in reality there isn’t much control at all. Also, and I think most people will agree with me, small things are just really very captivating. I still love small things. Secret worlds represent our own imaginations too, nobody knows all our thoughts other than us, and I always used to think, when sitting in an exam, there were all these silent voices in people’s heads, all these small worlds that only one person will ever hear. That fascinates me.
Stevie lives with her mum. Was it important to you that it’s a single parent family, with Dad nearby?
I really wanted to write a book with a mum and daughter, as my daughter asked me why there weren’t many families like ours in the books I read to her (she was three/four when I wrote the first Teacup House book, and she’s six now). Her dad and I got on really well, still spent time together with her and her brother (who has a different mum) and there was no nastiness, it was just how it was. It was her family, our family. I wanted to show that in a book, that families come in all shapes and sizes and there doesn’t have to be animosity. Everybody can get on, if all sides are willing (sometimes it’s not possible because one side isn’t willing, and for me, who had parents who refused to talk to each other at all, that can be really hard). I just wanted to write something where the shape of the family wasn’t the story, it was just how it was. And I really wanted to write something that my daughter could look back on when she was older and go, ‘Oh! I remember me and Mum doing that!’
Was it also important to you that girl rabbit Silver is the one who rescued her dad, and by using an ingenious bit of engineering too?
Yes, very much. We all come in different shapes and sizes, we all have different likes and dislikes and passions. We have to be careful to not guide children of all genders into this or that, and let them find out who they are, let them be who they are. I want to write things that show children (and adults) that it’s OK to be who they are, even if around them there are people saying it isn’t. A girl who likes inventing things and adventures and has the sort of brain that solves problems isn’t rare at all and I really felt it was good for all genders to see that.
This is your first book. What do you think was the hardest thing to get right and what are you most pleased with?
It’s my first book for children (I’ve had a novel out for adults) – the hardest thing to get right is making sure I didn’t write pages and pages of description. I love describing things, it’s how my brain works. I see things in great detail and the temptation is to do that on the page too. I like reading descriptions too! The good thing was I was about to write the descriptions about what the illustrations could be, so when I saw what Pippa Curnick had done with those descriptions I was totally thrilled. She made magic of the words! Most pleased? Holding the book in my hands, reading it with my daughter and her laughing at bits I hadn’t really thought of as funny, and just seeing her engage with the Twitches and Stevie and realising that would always be out there in the world, no matter what happens is definitely the best bit.
Teacup House Meet the Twitches is published by Usborne, 128pp, 978-1474928120, £5.99 pbk.