You’ve written for older children, but this is your first book for this age group (6-8 year olds). How different is it writing for younger children, and what do you enjoy about it?
While I’m writing, I don’t really think about my readers, or their ages; I just write the story, following the characters and the narrative wherever they take me. Having said that, I did really enjoy writing this story, but that may be because it has a dragon in it. I’ve written about dogs, bears and monkeys before, but never dragons. They’re a lot of fun. And very useful if you’re having a barbecue.
It’s quite a sophisticated story – did you have a particular type of reader in mind as you wrote it?
Sophisticated? That’s interesting. I suppose it is. But I’m not at all worried that the story is too sophisticated for modern kids, because they’re so amazingly sophisticated themselves. For instance, although the story is told entirely in emails, most kids are just as computer-literate as their parents, if not more so.
Garry Parson’s illustrations are a major part of the book. Did the two of you work closely together? Were you thinking of the illustration possibilities as you wrote the story?
I wish the answers to these two questions were “yes” and “yes”, but they are actually “no” and “no”. I wrote the text without thinking about illustrations, concentrating entirely on the words; and I didn’t have any discussion with Garry until the book was finished. He had done four of the covers for the Grk books, so I knew I was in safe hands, and his drawings have turned out brilliantly. We’re going to be doing some school events together – me talking and him drawing – so perhaps we’ll be more collaborative in the future.
The book is told through emails (most of which go unanswered!) Why did you choose this form of narrative?
I dreamed up this story about three years ago, but I couldn’t find a way to tell it. I jotted down some notes and started writing it several times, but never got further than the first few lines. Then I had the idea of writing it in emails, and suddenly the whole thing fell into place. So, to answer your question, I didn’t really choose emails; I muddled and struggled, trying out various different ways to tell the story, until I finally found one which just worked perfectly.
You seem very fond of writing about reckless uncles (Uncle Morton here and Uncle Harvey in The Island of Thieves) – is there a reason for that?
Hmmm, I’m not sure. I do have a couple of uncles myself, but neither of them are anything like Uncle Morton or Uncle Harvey. However, uncles are often interesting and sympathetic characters in children’s books, aren’t they? Perhaps it’s because they can be brotherly and fatherly without carrying all the baggage of actually being a brother or a father.
Will there be another adventure for Eddie and Uncle Morton?
Yes. I don’t want to reveal too much about it at the moment, because I haven’t finished writing it yet, but they – and the dragon – are definitely going to reappear. I can reveal that, this time, Eddie is going to do some travelling himself, rather than staying at home while Uncle Morton jets around the world. And I hope the second book won’t be the last; I really enjoyed writing The Dragonsitter and I would love to create many more adventures for the same characters.