- A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy is your new book, please could you sum up this book in the craziest way possible?
Space opera in the suburbs. It’s that old story of boy meets girl next door. Girl turns out to be heir to the galactic throne who’s on the run and hiding out on earth from… ah. No spoilers.
- After writing five fantastic books in My Brother is a Superhero series, what challenges did you have starting with this new book? Did fresh ideas flow from the very first page?
Thank-you for the compliment! I find that ideas flow in much the same way that blood does from an open wound. There’s a lot of them, but it’s a painful process. On the first question, enough time had passed since I’d closed the final chapter on the My Brother series that I didn’t feel those books hovering at my shoulder and peering at what I was doing now. Although, as I write this, I realise that everything I’ve ever written is shelved three feet behind me and could be said to be looming over me judgementally.
- Are laughter and humour always going to be David Solomons's key writing ingredients? Do you feel it is important that readers engage through laughter when reading your books?
I don’t set out to write funny books, it’s just the way they come out. I’m an inveterate noodler when it comes to funny scenes – I find myself going over and over them like some mad scientist – word choice, sentence rhythm, electrodes – in an effort to draw out the maximum lols. I can’t envisage writing a book that doesn’t contain humour; to do so would require a level of self-restraint that I have thus far failed to demonstrate in my life. Though I would say that, in my own mind anyway, I pay as much attention to the other elements. I challenge myself to make the stories funny and exciting, funny and poignant. It’s a tricky balance. For example, putting a snarky line into a character’s mouth at the wrong time can undercut what could and should be a dramatic moment. After years working together my editor, Kirsty Stansfield at Nosy Crow, is very good at reigning in my overenthusiastic tendencies!
- Most of the characters you write about have a superpower, what is your superpower?
I can bend time so that deadlines just bounce off me.
- Everybody loves an evil villain, which villain would you love to have a real-life conversation with and how do you think it would go?
First, one that comes to mind is Darth Vader, but it would be Eddie Izzard’s version of him from the legendary Death Star canteen routine. In which case our conversation would probably end with him killing me. With a tray.
- Which of your books would you like to see being turned into a film and why?
Any of them! And as for the reason, are you hoping for something more meaningful than fame, glory and a thumping great first day principal photography fee? I’ve been endeavouring to get my books into development/production for years, with a modicum of success. Steve Coogan’s company optioned My Brother is a Superhero, and I wrote a script for a proposed TV series, but that went away. I continue, Charlie Brown-like, to put my work in front of producers. In my other career as a screenwriter, I’ve written the screenplays for three films, including a version of Five Children and It, which I’m pleased to say continues to enjoy a life long after its debut.
These days I write screenplays mostly with my wife, Natasha. And they’re mostly adaptations of her books (for grown-ups). So, the other answer to your question is I’d like to have a film made purely to justify all the hard work we’ve put into the process.
- How important do you think it is to get children to read for enjoyment?
I have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old. For them there isn’t any other kind of reading. By which I mean they’ll only read if the experience is enjoyable. Our eldest is going through an interesting reading phase. I’m in the fortunate position that I’m aware of what’s brand new in the world of children’s fiction. It used to be I could put anything in front of him and he’d read it, but from hoovering up every kind of book, reading three or four a week, he’s slowing down. Still reading and enjoying, but I get the sense that he’s starting to form his own likes and dislikes. He’s happy to reject dad’s suggestions! The six-year-old is just finding her reading feet, but she already has strong opinions, especially when it comes to line readings. At bedtime, when Natasha or I are reading to her, she’ll make us stop if she thinks we’ve flubbed a line. Then she’ll read it the way it ought to be performed.
To go back to the original question, it makes my heartache. Our whole industry ultimately relies on enough of these little people wanting to pick up a book. It’s why I get so angry when some publishers foist substandard fiction on them. Kid reads average book with huge marketing budget and shrugs: I’ll go back to YouTube thanks. Yes, publisher gets immediate sales, but what about the long-term? Is that kid going to turn into a lifelong reader if her early exposure to books is so flawed? I know it’s not as simple as that, but it doesn’t help.
- What question were you hoping to be asked in this Q&A and why?
Is the author who appears in ‘My Cousin is a Time Traveller’ based on you?
So, in the last of the Superhero series our heroes get an author visit at school, a dismal presentation from a sweating, under-rehearsed children’s writer. I was quite emotional, writing the last of this series, and I knew I was saying goodbye to characters who’d had transformative effect on my life. So I wrote myself into the story in order to say goodbye to them ‘in person’. However, since I pantsed much of that novel (i.e. made it up as I went along) my character turned out to have a bigger role than I’d intended. Thanks for asking.