The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Spadge Whittaker

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Spadge Whittaker


Summary: Jill thought that Braver Than Britain, Occasionally by Spadge Whittaker in which Spadge researches Britain's top ten fears and faces them all over the course of a year was funny and silly and, yes, brave. It's a joyous little book. EXCEPT FOR THE SPIDERS.
Date: 1 December 2015
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Jill thought that Braver Than Britain, Occasionally by Spadge Whittaker in which Spadge researches Britain's top ten fears and faces them all over the course of a year was funny and silly and, yes, brave. It's a joyous little book. EXCEPT FOR THE SPIDERS.

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

Spadge Whittaker: I love this question! I have an identical twin sister called Rosie, who I've always been naturally quite competitive with. We are different in so many ways, but we have a very similar sense of humour. If I can make her laugh then I know I've done well, so I've made it my mission to impress her with everything I write.

  • BB: Are you mad? What started you on a journey that made you face your own fears, let alone Britain's?

SW: Haha, I did question my own sanity a number of times, particularly when I was waiting for the huge spider to come out of her box. I was thinking why am I feeling so impatient for something I'm absolutely dreading?!, crazy isn't it! It all started with a New Year's Resolution — 'to be braver' after I was held hostage by a rogue spider in the bathroom! As much as I hated that spider, I owe all of my creative inspiration to those hideous, twitchy legs.

  • BB: What was the reaction of friends and family?

SW: My parents have always been very supportive of my frequent, unusual ideas, but I think they questioned my level of dedication here. I'm renowned for backing out of events and situations that I find uncomfortable, and I'm a huge control freak, so something like abseiling (for fun) would never ever appear on my to-do list. My brother was totally unimpressed easy or what? was his reaction. If those are my only two options, I think what is most accurate! Friends loved guessing the top ten fears and they were all very helpful and supportive. Without sounding too cliché; I couldn't have done it without them.

  • BB: It took you almost a year to complete all these challenges. Did you ever lose heart at any point?

SW: At the very last hurdle (the crowds challenge), I felt so much like giving up. I'd spent a lot of money on a festival ticket and was fully prepared to tackle it, but the traffic on the way there was awful. We were still about two hours away from the location and I turned to my partner Rick (who was driving) and said I really don't want to do this, can we turn around?. I'm ashamed to say that I very nearly failed that challenge, before even witnessing the crowd.

  • BB: Do you have any fears that weren't included in the top ten, so you didn't have to face?

SW: I was very glad that blood didn't make it into the top ten phobias. I'm terrible around blood. I was also quite glad bees or wasps didn't appear. I really didn't fancy sticking my head in a beehive. I wish dogs had been higher on the list though, I'd have loved the excuse to be covered in dogs or puppies for a few days!

  • BB: What made you decide to donate the proceeds to charity?

SW: Knowing that I had been braver than Britain (just once!) was more than enough for me, I didn't want to do it for financial gain. Genuinely. It also made the hard times a little easier, to think I need to stop being scared and get on this plane. If not for me, then for all of the people who wish they were well enough to fly!. Thousands of people are having to deal with much bigger issues every day, and my heart goes out to them completely.

  • BB: Why Sarcoma UK?

SW: One of my best friends had battled with a synovial sarcoma for a long time. He was always the most supportive person of my future ambitions and when it became clear that this year would be his last, I asked him to choose a charity for me. His cancer was so rare, he said they were a charity that needed the most help. I hope that every sale of this book helps to save someone else's Andy.

  • BB: What was the most challenging aspect of producing the book? (Aside from facing the fears, that is!)

SW: Haha, it turned out that facing the fears was the easy part! I had no idea the amount of work that goes into producing a book. Even when I had all of the pieces together; the photographic evidence, the layout, the illustrations, the chapters all organised and the front cover designed, I still had to apply for an ISBN number and find a printer willing to charge a reasonable amount for a relatively small print run. I think the most challenging aspect was 'time'. Is that allowed? I'm totally to blame for that. I'm very guilty of setting myself a tight deadline and I thought it would be a lovely idea to have the book land on doorsteps on Halloween (ten months exactly from the start date and a pretty spooky day).

  • BB: What would be your desert island book?

SW: How to build a life-raft out of sand, I jest, I jest. I read so many different genres of book that it's very difficult to pick just one. I'm going to go for an absolute classic from 1938 – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It has a bit of everything, love, jealousy, suspense and a twist so good that it never gets old. I hold it up there with Austen and Brontë, but fewer people of my generation have read it.

  • BB: What's next for Spadge Whittaker?

SW: I am definitely feeling the need to publish another book. More narrative non-fiction because people are demanding a sequel! Although, I think I'm going to pass on being brave again for a while. I will have to think of a new idea. New Year's Eve is fast approaching, perhaps a rogue pigeon will spark some inspiration this year.

  • BB: We'll be very interested to see what you come up with Spadge. Thank you for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Spadge Whittaker here.

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