How many books have you had published?
Thirty one so far with another four in the pipeline.
Did you write for fun when you were at school?
I never imagined that I'd be an author at school. Instead I was far more concerned with being a pop star so I used to write deep and meaningful songs about peace, atom bombs and especially all the girls who wouldn't go out with me. These epics would then get bashed out on my extraordinarily loud guitar which made the peace songs rather pointless.
Have you always earned your living as a writer? If not, what else
have you done/do you still do?
I only started writing books by accident. I first got an engineering degree, then did stand up comedy, I cleaned toilets in a bacon factory, I worked on children's telly, was a security guard, then played pianos in pubs and finally found myself writing books. I still work for tv warming up studio audiences, and I still write scripts (recently I invented and wrote the new BBC science series "WHY 5?") I do music (including all the BBC "SMART" music) and I also devise game shows (including the millennium show "2 for 2000") .
When was your first book published and what was it called?
My first book all of my own was "The Mystery of the Magic Toy" published in 1989 and I still get e-mails from around the world asking for hints.
Was it difficult to get your first book published?
My first book arose because I'd been writing some TV stuff for Anne Wood - best known for creating the Teletubbies. She suggested that some of the material would be better in a book and put me in contact with an excellent agent who got it published, and then found a market place for my other stuff. Not too difficult at all really - but I was lucky.
Which is your favourite of your own books and why?
Of all my books I tend to like the plays best. They take up to a year to develop and write and I record all the music and songs for them too. Of the four published, my rock and roll musical Henry the Tudor Dude has been performed by both schools and professionals all around the world, so I'm especially proud of it. Apart from the plays, I think my new book Newton and his Apple is special. It was hard work to write, but it is about a fascinating bloke and includes some brilliant science stuff, some gory historical details, some funny bits I'm really pleased with and the pictures by Philip Reeve are just wonderful.
Which is your
favourite children's book written by someone else?
My absolute favourite book in the world is The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffry Willans with drawings by Ronald Searle. I thought the world as seen by Nigel Molesworth - the curse of St. Custard's - was funny when I was eight and 35 years later I'm still finding new jokes in it.
How long does
it take you to write a book?
If someone was to lock me away from distractions such as computer games, pubs, my kids and the telly I could write a book in 2 weeks. However it would be a bit dull so I have to force myself to mess about and not work so hard. Although it takes twice as long, that way I get more funny ideas.
Do you use a computer
or write first drafts long hand?
My handwriting is truly awful, so apart from scribbles on the back of my hand I always use a computer, or a Psion if I'm away from home.
Do you have a
writing routine or just write when you feel like it?
I have a very slack writing routine. It takes me all morning to stop playing on the internet or blasting monsters, but during the early afternoon I try to get 2,000 words written. Mind you, on some days I've crossed 1,999 of them out by tea time.
Rewriting - do
you love it or hate it?
Rewriting is the fun bit. The boring bit is when you first start and you sit facing a blank screen wondering what to put. Once you've done something - however rubbish - you can then have fun working out how to make it shorter or slicker or funnier.
Have you ever
belonged to a writers' group? If so, did it help?
Belong to a writers group? Nah. I daresay it would do me a power of good, and I've met one or two other Scholastic authors who are top people. However, when it comes to thinking how to actually type the stuff, I like to go off and do my own thing.
Have you got an
I've got two agents. The marvelous Marilyn, who got me started in books, deals with all my books and magazine writing. Everything else I do for TV and the theatre I usually handle myself, although my friend Tessa comes in very handy when the small print gets too small!
Why do you like
writing for children?
I don't see myself as writing for children - in fact I spent a lot of my life entertaining loud and raucous adults. I just write what interests and entertains me, and it so happens that it seems to be popular with kids which suits me fine.
How do you get
I get my ideas by... lying in the bath, walking the dog, watching people as they wait for buses, reading really ancient puzzle books, playing computer games, staring out of the window and getting the BEANO every week.
Do you draw the
pictures for your books?
I'd love to draw the pictures for my books, but I'm terribly out of practise and I don't really have the time. Having a good illustrator means that the books have much better pictures and also the illustrators sometimes put in their own jokes which are usually better than mine.
What advice would
you offer anyone who wants to write for children?
If you want to write for children (or anyone else for that matter) I suggest three things.
The first is to find a few children's books that YOU like and work out why you like them. That will help you develop a style that works for you.
The second thing is to always try and make a story. Even if you're explaining how plants grow or why polar bears are left handed, make sure the explanation however short, has a start, a middle and a finish. The best adverts on TV nearly always have a story of some sort even though they are only 30 seconds long!
The third thing is read what you've written out loud as if you've got an audience. Is it easy to read and do you think they would listen? If so, you've cracked it!
Are you willing
to do author visits to schools?
I'm always happy to do author visits when possible, especially to places convenient by rail from York. I usually talk for up to an hour about maths tricks, codes and games, but can also do stuff about the Galaxy. The best age range can be anywhere from 7 up to 12 and there's no limit to the size of audiences. Please contact me via Scholastic Books on 0171 421 9000.
Have you won any
awards or prizes?
I've won several different awards for productions of my stage shows, but the Pulitzer prize seems to be lost in the post.
For a list of Kjartan Poskitt's books and scripts in print click here