Noisy Neighbours and Snipping with Scissors: An Interview With Lauren Child (Part 1)

Thanks to those lovely book sellers at Waterstone’s Guildford, Daisy(11) and Izzy (8)recently got the opportunity to interview, awesome author, Lauren Child.

It’s not easy to concentrate at school when mysterious things are happening all around you. In fact, Clarice Bean is starting to feel just like her favorite heroine: Ruby Redfort, schoolgirl detective. Clarice and her utterly best friend, Betty Moody, are planning to ace their book project about Ruby and win the class prize, until Betty disappears into thin air, and horrible teacher Mrs. Wilberton teams Clarice up with the naughtiest boy in school. Will her new partner ruin everything? Will Betty ever come back? And what on earth happened to the silver trophy everyone’s hoping to win? Lauren Child brings her trademark wacky wit and eccentric visual energy to a full-length, fastpaced Clarice Bean episode that will charm even the most capricious reader

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
In Clarice Bean the picture book there is a boy who shouts a lot and he is the neighbor of Clarice Bean and he was my neighbor while I was writing the book. So he was someone who was actually outside of my window.

So from everywhere really and some things just pop in to my head and I don’t know where they come from.

Where did you get the inspiration to use different fonts and textiles?
I’ve just always been very keen on textiles and I don’t know why but when I was a child I used to love going to peoples houses and looking at how they decorated, what colours they used and everything. So I have always been interested in that.

And fonts, well I think that they are just beautiful things. The fact that they have all been designed differently for different things. Whether it’s advertising or a book, they all have different uses and I think that they are very nice to use in illustration to bring out the character of your character. Clarice Bean’s font is very different from her brothers font, Milo’s font. Because he is younger it is much more babyish. It show’s you immediately the differences between them.

Which of your characters is the most fun to write?
I Like writing about all of them. You have to feel strongly about your characters. I have loved writing about Charlie and Lola, I still do so I probably am going to do more.But Clarice Bean is my favorite, because I can write as her. I can write about the things that meant a lot to me when I was a child. It’s also fun to write about Ruby Redfort as well because it is a completely different thing, imagining yourself as someone completely different.

How long does it take to write a Lauren Child book?
It depends on the book and often I’m doing lots and lots of different things at the same time so that can make things take longer. This Ruby Redford, the first one (indicates Look In To My Eyes), took about two years but I was doing other things and I had to set the scene- Who were her friends?What was her family like?-I had to do everything from scratch, this (indicates Take Your Last Breath) only took a year to write because I knew all of those things already.

Clarice Bean (indicates books), these took a long time to write but that was because I was working on a television show which took up a lot of time so I (pauses) I think that there is a two year gap between each Clarice Bean. I was working on them the whole time with lots of stopping and starting.

When I do a picture book it’s usually six months.

What do you use to draw your illustrations?
I use pencil, just a normal pencil. But what I often do is enlarge things then. So I scan things. I cut things out. I do lots of cutting and pasting. And I, I did that really because. Um (pauses) You see lots of illustrators who are really amazing at knowing exactly where they want things to go.There is an illustrator called Chris Riddell and I remember watching him draw and he seems to know exactly how the picture is going to be just from his head. I know Quentin Blake, I’ve seen him draw and he plots things first so he knows what the picture is going to look like and then he draws it. I just do it as I’m going along which means I often make mistakes, and I don’t quite know how its going to be so I draw every single thing separately and then snip it out with my scissors, and then arrange it on the bit of paper.

Was it intentional for Clarice Bean to age with her readers?
I wasn’t really expecting to do that when I started. I mean, she starts off in the picture books about seven years old and I chose that age because I remember thinking that it was a really lovely age to be and I quite enjoyed being seven.

Then when I started doing the novels I though that it would be quiet nice for her to talk about things that were more complicated as you got older and things are perhaps less one way or the other. You start to realise that (pauses), like in Spells Trouble, I don’t know if you have read that Clarice Bean (Daisy indicates her copy of the book on the table) Oh! *laughs* sorry, I do know you’ve read this! So in that one she starts to realise that it is not always clear what the wrong thing and the right thing is **spoiler for book excluded from transcript** The black and white starts to go, and you realise that you have to go with your gut feeling. So it seemed right that she should get older.

There is something a bit sad in Don’t Look Now, because she is dealing with people leaving you and that feeling that things change. As you get older things really change. I hope that it feels happier at the end. Just because things change it doesn’t mean that things can’t change for the better.

It wasn’t intentional, but it just seemed right because I wanted to write about things that effect people more your age (indicating Daisy 11) as well as your age (indicating Izzy 8).

You have written lots of stories for young children through to teenagers. Why didn’t you stick to just one age range?
Because it is really fun trying something different and I like doing each thing as much as the other. I’ve done some Charlie and Lola board books which were really fun because it’s like a challenge to make the shortest, simplest book that someone is going to enjoy, and do the pictures and that’s a lovely thing to do. But I also love writing stuff that is complicated like this (points to Clarice Bean) and thinking about writing for young teenagers.
There are lots of different sides to reading and I like to try new things. There are many more things that I would like to do.

Who is your favourite author?
My favourite author of children’s books? Any one?
Anyone
Oh that’s very hard. I think (pauses) Well my favorite illustrator is Quentin Blake and in the end I have always loved him the most. Although I love many, many illustrators. He’s probably my most favourite.

My favorite children’s author (pauses) they were around when I was a child and you can still get their books now, actually I’ve got one here (pulls book out of bag) because I was talking about this book the other day. The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars, and she’s a wonderful, wonderful writer, so I still love her books. I think they are amazing.

And grown up books, well again there are so many people, but there’s an author called Rose Tremain, she’s written a lot of books but my favourite one of hers is called Restoration. Although it’s set in history around the reign of king Charles II, a long long time ago, you see lots of things in common with your own life.

Come back next week to read the part two of Daisy and Izzy’s interview with Lauren child. In the mean time you can discover more about Lauren and her work by clicking here to visit her website and learn about Guildford Waterstone’s upcoming book events by visiting their events page here.

Interview by Daisy (11) and Izzy (8)

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