Meet Robin, or rather, Wobin: a metal garden ornament transported from England to the beautiful French Riviera. He’s lonely and can’t speak French. Neither can he fly, which is a bit unfortunate for a bird. This is his story about learning to fly and being brave.
with Tony Rocca
What is your favourite thing about writing books?
It’s being able to shut out the real world around me and escape to another place where I can let my imagination fly (literally so in the case of Wobblin’ Wobin).
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
This has to be Wobin. He’s been bashed and beaten, unwanted and put up for sale on eBay, and then discovers he’s only of value to someone as a scarecrow. It’s all very demeaning for a once-proud little bird. He’s already conscious of a disadvantage, being unable to pronounce his “r’s”; but suddenly he is whisked off to a strange land where he can’t even speak the language, has no friends, and most embarrassingly has a fear of flying. When two turtle-doves and a lady blackbird take him under their wing, so to speak, a transformation occurs. He transcends his disadvantages and takes flights of fancy to discover the great destinations of the French Riviera. He is fearlessly cocky when faced with danger, and emerges in his true colours as a beautiful robin. I hope this theme of triumph over adversity will capture the imagination of children wherever they happen to live and they will want to visit for themselves some of the most beautiful places in France featured in the story.
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Black coffee in the daytime. Our local aperitif, pastis, in the evening.
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Drinking two glasses of pastis in the evening. Or, I admit, three when writer’s block strikes.
How do you research your books?
I have lived on the Riviera, where the book is set, for more than 30 years so I am very familiar with the destinations concerned and have actually written travel pieces about them for The Sunday Times.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Very definitely a pantser. I like the spontaneity it affords and the freedom to go where the story takes me rather than stick to a specific plot. I know this is a dangerous road to take but I have a broad idea of the direction of travel and if I get stuck I can always U-turn and feel my way around the book another way.
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
The happy childhood evoked by Swallows and Amazons, the adventures of children sailing, fishing, camping and exploring the Lake District from their little island. For me, growing up in the north of England, it was familiar territory, but Arthur Ransome managed to imbue it with something magical with references to Robinson Crusoe and turning plain old lemonade into ‘grog’ and tinned corned beef into ‘pemmican’. The story has survived remarkably through the generations from first publication in 1930 to the latest iteration, a film version three years ago. I also like the fact that the author used to be a journalist with what was then the Manchester Guardian. With the book’s initial success he gave up the newspaper business and concentrated on writing more in the series.
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Eeyore. He’s so depressed, gloomy and pessimistic I’d like to take the old donkey out of the House at Pooh Corner and cheer him up with a good dose of grog and pemmican on a Lakeland holiday. Wouldn’t that be fun!