Francesca Simon, journalist to renowned childrens author, famously known for her Horrid Henry series which has sold over 18 million copies in 24 countries is in town taking care of her devoted fans. They have become utterly engrossed as she speaks about Norse vikings, gods and goddess’s. The American born writer who has lived in London for a few decades, occasionally opens the floor for the children to flex their own historical and mythical muscles which is relished like an overflowing juicy burger and chips, they can’t wait to get stuck in, they want to know everything, so much so I’ve had to write this Q&A in two parts.
So lets start…
Why did you become a writer?
Well, I used to write for the Guardian, The Sunday times, Vogue the New York times, The Telegraph…So being a journalist I always liked writing, and then when my son Josh was born, I instantly started to get loads of ideas for writing childrens books.
What was your inspiration for all your books?
Well it’s a very long process but the main inspiration was my lovely publishers Faber and Profile that work together who said you can write anything you want so I decided to write about the Lewis Chessmen.
What was the first book you wrote called?
It was called ‘What does the Hipopotamus say?’ it was an animal noise book, because that’s what I was doing with my son, and we’d have this book with lots of animals and I would say ‘What does the horse say?’ and my genius son would say neigh!!! [She laughs] and then he’d point to the caterpillar and I thought… What does a caterpillar say? And bingo, that’s where I got the idea for the book.
Which is the favourite of your books?
Which is the favourite out of all my children? Erm…The Monstrous Child, I usually like my most recent books but I really like The monstrous child, it was the most exhilarating to write! A goddess, and a teenager which I’d never done before, then discovering how this girl was looking at her body, and how a lot of girls have body issues. It was interesting to take someone who had no confidence and run it through a mythic framework.
The voice you heard for ‘The Monstrous Child’ was it a real person?
It’s a really good question because obviously it’s a voice from my imagination but it’s a voice that spoke to me ‘You’d think after my brother the snake was born they’d have stopped at one’ ….She came out fully formed with a really distinctive voice, the most distinctive I’ve ever had as a writer. Again it’s hard to explain because I’ve never written in first person, and if you think about Horrid Henry which is written in 3rd person the funny stuff in there comes from the narrator, but Henry himself is not all that funny.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I loved books about magic but I didn’t like books about magic happening else where, I liked magic happening in our world, and my favourite book was by Edward Eagar, who wrote about a group of ordinary children who find a magic coin which would give them half their wish…And well, I just read that book endlessly.
What is your most favourite Horrid Henry book?
I don’t have a favourite book but I have a favourite story. Do you remember when I told you about where it is I start before writing is? And I said I start by asking myself questions [All the children nod their heads]…well that’s what I thought when my own son wanted to have a jumble sale, I thought what would Horrid Henry sell if he was going to have a jumble sale…Peter of course.
Do you read children’s books?
Yeees! Childrens books are the best sort of books because they’re so much fun. I recently read Time travelling with my hamster and erm…Crongton Knights is also really good.
When will your next book be out?
My next book will be a picture book and it’ll be called Hack and Whack about two squabbling vikings, and they’re really funny. Their parents say things like ‘No axes at the dinner table’and ‘Put that sword down!’
I don’t know about you but I can’t wait, come back next week to find out Simon’s opinion on the difference between being a writer that wants to write and a professional author. I’d love to hear what you think.