The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Shirley Hughes
|The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Shirley Hughes|
|Summary: Bookbag really enjoyed Bye Bye Birdie - Shirley Hughes' first graphic novel for adults. The chance to ask such an icon of children's literature a few questions was more than we could resist. She was absolutely lovely and we were thrilled to talk to her.|
|Date: 30 March 2009|
|Interviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
Bookbag really enjoyed Bye Bye Birdie - Shirley Hughes' first graphic novel for adults. The chance to ask such an icon of children's literature a few questions was more than we could resist. She was absolutely lovely and we were thrilled to talk to her.
- Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
Shirley Hughes: It depends on the age, of course. With the very young children, I imagine them being read to whilst they're scrutinising every page with great attenion and visualising the story. With older children, I don't have a particular person in mind - I certainly don't see either a boy or a girl. I just tell the story with my own voice.
- BB: What inspired you to write a book for adults rather than children?
SH: "Where do you get your ideas from" - it's the question that I'm most often asked and never able to answer. I knew I wanted it to be a cartoon strip and not for children. It's about sitting down with the pen and paper and seeing what comes from that.
- BB: Did it require a different mindset or creative process, given the different audience?
SH: Well, it is a different type of book: it's unnerving, and as a cartoon strip there's a different flow to picture books. There's also a sophisticated subtext, although obviously that's for the reader to decide upon. The actual process was the same though.
- BB: Bye Bye Birdie has a slightly more surreal and anarchic twist than your previous work. Is this something that you'd look to bring into your children's books?
SH: No, it's not really something that transfers to the Alfie readership.
- BB: Of the many glorious books you've written, which is your favourite and why?
SH: The answer to that always has to be the book that you're currently working on. That aside, it has to be Dogger. It was my big breakthrough. Although I don't use real children in any of my books, Dogger is real. He's very old now, so he doesn't travel much. He's retired.
- BB: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers and illustrators as to how to get published?
SH: Look at what's out there already - not to copy what is there, but to get a feel for it. Even something as simple as counting the number of pages that are used, as it might be too expensive for publishers to print anything longer. See how the text and pictures interact with one another. If you're just writing the words, the publisher may want to team you up with a particular illustrator. Stick with it, but do remember that there is an awful lot out there.
- BB: Which three books should every child read?
SH: This is such a difficult question. Marcia Williams' books about Bible stories and Greek myths for young children. They're a perfect introduction to the great European canon for children. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The wonderful anthropomorphic animals have never been done so well. Clever Bill by William Nicholson.
- BB: What are you reading at the moment?
SH: Fludd by Hilary Mantel. She's got a great style and range. It's a very funny and surprising book.
- BB: Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?
SH: Mrs Scrimgeour, my History teacher at West Kirby Grammar School, for introducing me to the world of the Tudors.
- BB: Which book has most influenced you and do you still have a copy?
SH: Tim and Charlotte by Edward Ardizzone. I do have a copy, but it's very old. I've handed it down to my children.
- BB: What's next for Shirley Hughes?
SH: I'm working on a book called The Christmas Eve Ghost. It's set in the 1930s and deals with a religious divide. It's got all sorts of mysterious things like coppers and mangles, which modern children will love.
- BB: Thank you so much, Shirley - and good luck with the next book!
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