The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Dom Conlon

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Dom Conlon

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Summary: Sue had a lovely time reading Dom Conlon's I Am A Giant and Tommy Tickletail: A Tall Tale and she was eager to chat to the author when he popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 9 December 2013
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue had a lovely time reading Dom Conlon's I Am A Giant and Tommy Tickletail: A Tall Tale and she was eager to chat to the author when he popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Dom Conlon: I see curious children and intrigued parents on an adventure together. And that 'together' is really important. I love the worlds books can send us to but I love them even more when they become shared.

DC: They are. This is more because of the publishing process rather than the writing one. I had a series of Tiny stories written before the need to explore a slightly darker tale gripped me.

Tiny was all my son's idea. There. I've said it. Mid-way through 2012 he leaned towards me and whispered I know a really tiny giant. I was hooked. A tiny giant? There was such aspiration and joy in that idea, I knew I had to write it. But in the time between him telling me this and me writing the first draft, my son had moved it on a lot. When I read my story to him he said that Tiny was now some kind of ninja and not a giant at all. Clearly I couldn't keep up but he still claims credit to the version I went with.

Tommy Tickletail came about whilst reading through old cautionary tales. One day I'd like to release a book of them for adults - with beautifully disturbing illustrations. There's something about facing fears (and insecurities) which draws me in. Sometimes that takes the form of Tiny standing up to the world but at other times it takes the form of something which lurks in the shadows beneath the kitchen table...

  • BB: We know that ereaders are the coming thing, but is there any chance that we're going to see these gorgeous books in solid form?

DC: I would love them to be in paper form. Despite having no room to store them, I enjoy buying physically printed books. eBooks are interesting (as are book apps) and they have a place in which to tell stories. But the feeling of a beautifully produced book (Troll and The Oliver springs to mind) is something to treasure. I just have no idea about printing or distribution so that's a learning curve for the future. Or somebody else's problem.

  • BB: The books have different illustrators - both perfect for their stories. How do you go about choosing an illustrator when all you have are the words?

DC: When I first shared I AM A GIANT, several illustrators sent me their version. It was unexpected and delightful. It also taught me that I had no idea how to judge illustrators - or how to manage them. This was a really difficult lesson and one I could write a lot about. The upshot was that it came down to trust. All of Nicola's work is a joy to look over. Her vision of Tiny was so filled with life that I knew I could trust her. I think I had one suggestion for the app version of the book but other than that, Tiny is hers.

Carl Pugh is my creative partner and co-owner of Inkology. He grabbed hold of Tommy Tickletail and wouldn't let go. Thankfully, I trust him completely too. We've worked together for nearly twenty years now and I know he's usually right.

  • BB: When I read I Am A Giant I sensed the talents of a poet behind the writing. Do you write for adults - and what made you decide to write for children?

DC: I love poetry. I love the rhythms and cadences and structures of poetry. I'm increasingly finding that these lend themselves to short form writing which can help make sense of the world. And because of the way my son and I talk together, I find myself with doing this through nonsense poems or stories more suitable for his age. But other times I write and share work which may be more adult. There's one story which is about childhood but written in a way that would engage adults rather than children.

  • BB: Where and how do you write? With or without music? And how long does a book take you from that first glimmer of an idea to seeing it published?

DC: I run two companies so time is found in tiny parcels. I'm getting better at setting aside writing time and that's been vital in my development. I will write on the train too and from the office. That's early in the morning and in the evening and I'm finding these times to be my malleable times. When ideas seep through with enough confidence to be captured on my phone. I'll then take the prisoners to a cafe and drown them in coffee whilst I see if they can go the distance. If they do then I like to share those drafts fairly quickly. There's something about releasing stories and poems into the wild which helps me see them through a reader's eyes. There is little value in seeing a story as finished unless it's been given enough time to see it this way. Tiny took over a year for me to finish, Tommy probably half that.

  • BB: Were books important to you as a child? And do you still have any of your favourites?

DC: For my sixteenth birthday, my parents bought me a beautiful Folio edition of The Hobbit. Its whisper thin paper and metallic embossing is still my most treasured possession. The reason I was bought this was because books have always been important. We had the most amazing Ladybird book collection and lots of Enid Blyton stories. These continue to be favourites of mine - I'd say I have a soft spot for The Magic Porridge Pot. Libraries were far more of a thing in my childhood and our local one offered so many adventures for me. That was probably where my imagination really grew.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment - and what would be your desert island book?

DC: Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs has just completely wiped me out emotionally (in a good way) but I'm just starting to read Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. But come on, one desert island book? Why on earth would I want to go anywhere without a decent library or wifi access? BUT, if pushed on just one book then it would be Catcher In The Rye.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

DC: To see Tiny The Giant grow.

  • BB: What's next for Dom Conlon?

DC: There's a lot. Inkology will be releasing more stories featuring more amazing illustrations in both free to read (on the www.inkology.co.uk website) or for Kindle / iBooks formats. There is also a range of books to support the Jetpack Journeys series of apps which help young children learn about space. There are all kinds of exciting things happening with Jetpack Journeys next year, including a very special exhibition. I'm on this mission to show young children that there are amazing things they can learn about space and I see stories as a major part of making that happen.

  • BB: There's lots to look forward to there, Dom - thanks for chatting to us and good luck with all your plans.

You can read more about Dom Conlon here.

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