Hello and welcome to this blog. How have you been? What have you been up to? Oh, really? Nice. Me? Well, I had a couple of new books published back in August – one of which, Scaredy Bat, is a picture book. No big deal I hear you say. Well, some of you anyway. OK, a couple of you. But see, here’s the thing. It kind of is a big deal to me. Scaredy Bat is – oh I don’t know – about my 40th published book to date? I really should count them all some time. I get asked the question by children often enough. Along with am I rich, what kind of car have I got and what inspired me to become an author? But anyway, crucially, Scaredy Bat is my first picture book for 21 years. And that’s a mighty long time in publishing terms. Or any terms for that matter. To put it in context, my youngest son has just turned 21. And he’s been around forever. Or perhaps it just feels like it. But I digress. As Robert Plant once memorably sang, it’s been a long time, been a long time been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time. Why? Well, that’s a long story. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure how interesting anyone else would find it. So, as Tony Hadley once memorably sang, to cut a long story short…
My first book, Somewhere Out There, was a picture book. My second, The Big Bad Rumour, was also a picture book. And good luck with finding either of those by the way. The last time I saw a copy, Tony Robinson had just dug one up on Channel 4’s quite-popular-15-years-ago-amateur-archaeology-show, Time Team. After that, I wrote a series of books for older children, called Yo! Diary! That was the name of the books, by the way. Not the children. That would have been weird. Anyway, Yo! Diary! got made into a TV series for the BBC. Two series actually. 26 episodes in total. Which I also wrote. And acted in. (I use the term acted in the loosest possible sense.) Anyway, that took a couple of years. After that, I was lucky (and privileged) enough to write a few books for the mighty Barrington Stoke. And after that, I was busy writing a fair bit of stuff for schools TV, as well as somehow finding myself the face of a series of nazi zombie horror movies. You know, as opposed to a series of nazi zombie rom-coms? Oh and I was also doing loads of voice-overs at this time, as well as other bits and bobs of ‘acting.’
Then, in 2011, I had a book published, called The World of Norm May Contain Nuts. Which did OK. So, it was followed by 11 more Norms over the next six years. And a World Book Day version. And an activity book. And a few other books too, because – and this seems an awful long time ago now – there was a very brief period, when publishers actually came to me, asking me to write stuff. Ah, that takes me back.
Anyway, blah blah blah, what with one thing and another, I just hadn’t got round to seriously trying to write another picture book. Too many distractions. There’d been a couple of tentative enquiries along the way – and I’d scribbled down a few half-baked ideas, but nothing ever happened. Until one day I met Alan Windram, from Little Door Books, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. We chatted. He’s a lovely guy. And I really liked the sound of Little Door – especially the way they hook up established writers, with unknown/first time illustrators. Which is how I finally came to be asked to write my third ever picture book – and how I eventually came to be paired up with a brilliant Danish artist and illustrator, called Anders Frang.
And I have to say – well, I don’t have to – but I’m going to say it anyway, the whole process of writing, producing and publishing Scaredy Bat, has been an absolute joy, from start to finish. A real collaborative effort. Alan and Anders would chip in with the odd suggestion about my text. And I’d make the odd suggestion about an illustration. It was great. Hard work at times. But ultimately, so, so satisfying. And all done via Zoom. Technology, eh? Marvellous.
So, yeah, it’s been a long time coming. But – and yes, I would say this – I do genuinely think it’s been worth the wait. Scaredy Bat probably won’t make too many (if any) shortlists, or ‘best of’ round ups in the broadsheets – and it may have only been published by a ‘wee, independent publisher’ in the wilds of Scotland (their words, not mine, incidentally) but I honestly couldn’t be prouder. So, thanks for having me, Alan. And Anders. All power to your collective elbows.
Fingers crossed, it won’t be quite so long, next time.
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