Are you ready to both laugh and scream? Well, you can do both of these whilst reading our interview with James Harris. His debut book, The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory, was published in April 2021 by Hodder Children's Books. The book has been wonderfully illustrated by Loretta Schauer. It's a laugh-out read packed full of orange monsters and an exploding toilet! Okay, I lied about the exploding toilet. So, sit down and treat yourself to a biscuit (not a Fig roll though) and enjoy this interview.
There are so many biscuits and so many stories to choose from (both of which I love!). Why should we choose to read your book 'The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory'?
You should only choose the Unbelievable Biscuit Factory if you like big laughs, big monsters, big rabbits and big biscuits. Caution: although it says Biscuit on the front, do not try to dunk it in your tea.
What types of biscuits were harmed/eaten during the production of this book?
I wrote this book off and on over four years, so I would probably say ALL the biscuits were eaten at one time or another, apart from Fig Rolls because they are NOT biscuits, they are a damp pastry packet of disappointment. Gosh I don’t like Fig Rolls.
What do you think are the main ingredients to create a really funny book and do you believe laughter is important, particularly for children?
Laughter is very important! It’s the best thing! I used to do a bit of stand up comedy and there is no feeling in the world like making people laugh. It’s seriously addictive. As for the ingredients… eesh, it’s hard to say. You’d assume “jokes” would be the answer, but I don’t think it is. It’s like a lovely bourbon biscuit – you don’t really know how it’s made but you know it when you taste it.
You claim to be a wizard and an exaggerator. What is your biggest exaggeration to date?
Probably the wizard thing if I’m honest, although I do have a wizard’s hat. They say you should dress for the job you want rather than the job you have so I wear a wizard’s hat and occasionally shout bits of latin just in case I can suddenly do magic but it hasn’t worked so far. INUTILIS! Darn, still nothing.
What are the processes involved in developing and creating believable and unique monsters?
I don’t know! Luckily my monsters are totally unbelievable, and when you’re creating an unbelievable monster there are no rules!
Did you enjoy reading as a child?
I loved reading. Books, comics, the back of the cornflakes packet. I grew up in a house full of books, and we had a second hand bookshop nearby so I would buy Narnia books, photonovels, Monty Python books, Mad Magazine paperbacks, Molesworth, sci-fi, Famous Five, Snoopy, Garfield, Beano and Batman annuals. Just stuff I loved, and it’s all in my brain now, slooshing around and leaking all over the page when I come to write my own stuff.
How do you use social media as an author?
I use it to try out jokes, to keep in touch with what other authors are up to, to keep in touch with bookshops, to waste time when I should be writing… the usual, I guess.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
Writing is rewriting. The first draft of anything is absolutely supposed to be terrible! But you need to write it so you can start rewriting, chipping away at it, making it better, making it funnier. You can get it wrong loads of times, because you only need to get it right once and it’s right forever.
Do you have a favourite biscuit joke you could share with us?
Well the fig roll is definitely some kind of sick joke if that’s what you mean?
Will you be writing another book and, if so, is there anything that you would do differently next time?
I am! I’ve nearly finished it and this time instead of biscuits it’s got a lot of ice cream in it. And aliens. Lots of aliens. And no rabbits. So it’s very different to the first one I think. Still bonkers though, I hope.