We were thrilled to have the chance to interview one of Britain's top children's authors, Andy Stanton, writer of the ingenious and hilarious Mr. Gum series. Find out how he comes up with ideas and characters for his stories, what he thinks makes a great bedtime story, what his favourite bedtime story is, and lots more...
Check out the video below for the brilliant (and hysterical!) Bedtime Story Competition interview with Andy Stanton! (You can also read the transcript below...)
1) How do you come up with an idea for a story?
I have lots of ideas all the time. You only need one idea to start writing a story. If you're really stuck for an idea, go for a long walk or do something boring, like doing the dishes or something. It takes your mind off things and an idea will pop into your head. Once you have your idea, sit down and see if it turns into a story.
2) How do you come up with your main character?
I think once you've got a story going, the right character just appears in the story at the right time. When I was writing Mr. Gum, I got to chapter 5 and thought, hang on, it's a kids' book, but I haven't had any kids in it yet - I'd better have a kid! Who shall I have? Well, everyone so far has just been a horrible, nasty old man; I'd better have a little girl. Lo and behold, Polly, my heroine, popped up. She arrived in the story just when she was needed.
3) What inspired you to become a writer?
I love reading! I've always loved reading and I still love reading. I read everything I can get my hands on. I'm just so inspired by loads of other books and writers out there and always have been. I always wanted to end up doing it myself, so I've been lucky enough to end up doing it myself!
4) What do you think makes a great bedtime story?
Short-ish chapters are good, so it's not too much for anyone but it's just enough for a nice slice. Quite exciting endings to chapters, too, cliffhangers and things - plus cosiness. I like cosiness in a bedtime story.
5) If you could give our young writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just get to the end of the first version of the story. It doesn't matter if it's a bit rubbish; it doesn't matter if things don't quite make sense. Just keep going and keep going and once you've got right to the end of the story, then you can go back later and edit it and make it better.
Quick Fire Questions
What's your favourite bedtime storybook?
Probably The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. It's a great book. It's actually called 'A Children's Story in Five Nights'. Brilliant, brilliant book.
If you could be best friends with anyone from a book, who would it be?
Probably not the Cat in the Hat, because he'd just wreck your house, wouldn't he? Maybe Lyra from Northern Lights. I like Lyra because she likes to have a laugh - run around all over the place and jump on roofs. Maybe I don't... actually want to jump on roofs with her, though...
Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?
Ooh, I don't know... [Andy starts talking to an empty space.] Mr. Wiggly? Did I have an imaginary friend growing up? What's that? Oh, Mr. Wiggly says no, I never had an imaginary friend in my life. Thanks, Mr. Wiggly!
What's your favourite word?
I go through changes on my favourite word. I just like the sound of words. Sometimes it's 'snooker', sometimes it's 'captain', sometimes 'snorkel' - that's a bit like 'snooker', isn't it? At the moment, it's a very simple one: 'hello' in a silly voice. I find it hilarious. If you say any word over and over again, it sounds ridiculous. Hello! Hello! Hello! What do you say to someone when you meet them? Hello! Doesn't sound real, does it?
What makes a good goody and a bad baddy?
Don't make your goody flawless; give them a few imperfections. No-one wants a, 'Oh, I'm such a goody-goody-two-shoes!' Put a bit of an edge on the goody. In reverse, for a baddy, give them an element of sympathy. Don't make the goody too good; don't make the baddy too bad. Also, I like villains who are really stupid and hilarious, like my villain, Mr. Gum.
Who's your best friend? What makes them so good?
I've got a few best friends. One of my best friends from writing is a writer called Anthony McGowan - Tony McGowan. We just get on! Friends are great.
Tell us something we didn't know about you...
Well, I am... actually... invisible. [Long, unsettling stare.] But that doesn't show up on video.
Remember to check out all of our Andy Stanton books to see for yourself why kids love his stories so much!