Q When did you decide to be a writer?
A For my fifth birthday, my father gave me a very fat book called “The Book of a Thousand Poems”. I loved it. I read the poems, recited them, learnt them, and then started making up some of my own. Although I wanted to be a poet all those years ago, I later decided I would rather go on the stage. That didn’t quite work out, so I did other jobs – teaching and publishing. But somehow I’ve ended up doing what I wanted to do when I was five years old. I have a theory that this happens to quite a lot of people.
Q When did you start to write books?
A In 1993, when one of my songs, “A Squash and a Squeeze” was made into a book. Before that I just wrote songs for children’s television.
Q Where do you get your ideas?
A Anywhere and everywhere: things that happen to my children; memories of my own childhood; things people say; places I go to; old folk tales and fairy stories. The hard part for me is not getting the idea, it is turning it into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Q How long does it take to write a book?
A It can take months or years for the idea to grow in my head and for me to plan the book. This is a very important part. Then, when I am ready it could take anything between a week (for a picture book) and six months (for a chapter book) to write it. For THE GRUFFALO the ideas and planning stage lasted a year (obviously I was doing other things too!) and the actual writing took about two weeks.
Q Do you write with a pencil?
A When I’m writing a rhyming book I start off with a pencil or pen, writing in a big exercise book and doing lots of doodles along the way. If the book isn’t going to rhyme I often write it on the computer.
Q Where do you write?
A In my head when I’m in the bath or out for a walk. (I do have my own study, too, and sometimes I write on trains or in the library.)
Q Where did the inspiration for the Gruffalo come from?
A The book was going to be about a tiger but I couldn’t get anything to rhyme with “tiger”. Then I thought up the lines: “Silly old Fox, doesn’t he know/There’s no such thing as a _________________ ” and somehow the word “gruffalo” came to mind to fill the gap. The gruffalo looks the way he does because various things that just happened to rhyme (like toes and nose, and black and back)
Q Do you like being an author?
A I find the actual writing quite hard work. I often get stuck, or feel that I’m plodding along in an uninspired way. But when I realise that a story is working after all it’s a very exciting feeling – and I love doing all the polishing touches at the end (or “tweaking” as publishers call it). It’s lovely when the first rough illustrations arrive and I see how my characters are going to look.
Q How many books have you written?
A I have written 204 books. (83 of them can be bought in shops, and the other 121 are for schools.)
Q Which one of your books is your favourite?
A It keeps changing. At the moment I have two: “The Highway Rat” for younger children and “The Giants and the Joneses” for older ones.
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