The Bloodhound Boys books are full of crazy characters and awesome adventures. Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from many things, particularly from my own experiences as a child growing up in the country with a very vivid imagination. I also find inspiration from my children (three boys!), dreams, my students and my past travel adventures. But I’d have to admit that I’m most inspired after a tummy full of icy cold chocolate milk!
What advice would you give to an aspiring young graphic novelist?
My number one tip for budding graphic novelists is to draw whenever you have the chance. Carry a notepad everywhere you go and whenever you’re bored, draw. If you’re stuck on a bus or a train, draw. Some of my best drawings and ideas have been jotted down in waiting rooms, staff meetings (don’t tell my headmaster!) or on public transport.
Another piece of advice would be to never ever give up wanting to be an author/illustrator/graphic novelist. No matter how hard things might seem, how many rejection letters you may receive or how difficult something looks to sketch, if you love drawing then keep drawing, and all those obstacles WILL be overcome. The more you practise the better you’ll become and the more likely you’ll be noticed … So get drawing!
What were your favourite books as a kid?
Being a children’s writer, it’s children’s books that I’ve always enjoyed and found comfort in. Being a fairly reluctant reader as a child, I was always searching for books that combined expressive text with eye-catching illustrations. My love of children’s books has never waned and I still enjoy browsing through picture books and children’s literature as they always seem to transport me back to my happy childhood.
Eight books from my childhood that are very special to me are:
The Muddle-Headed Wombat by Ruth Park and illustrated by Noela Young
A Fish out of Water by Helen Palmer and illustrated P.D. Eastman
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Gorga the Space Monster - Choose Your Own Adventure by Edward Packard and illustrated by Paul Granger
Tin Tin – Explorers on the Moon By Herge
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
My Place by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Donna Rawlins
One of my earliest memories is drooling over the pages of The Muddle-Headed Wombat. The illustrations in the book would always astound me as a child and I would often wonder how Noela Young could possibly sketch such realistically magical images. I would carry this book with me everywhere I went and spend most weekends trying to copy Noela’s Muddle Headed Wombat the best I could. I believe it’s this book that sparked my love of children’s books in the very beginning. I now have the great pleasure of working alongside Noela Young, illustrating stories for The School Magazine.
A Fish out of Water is about a fish named Otto that’s fed too much and grows ridiculously out of control … and keeps growing! The story is based on a short tale by Helen Palmer’s husband, Dr Seuss. It’s classic storytelling, decorated with dazzling illustration work. I was always super duper careful never to feed my pet goldfish too much fish food after reading this book.
From the moment I read Where the Wild Things Are, I wanted to be Max – the dreamer, the adventurer, all dressed up in his animal onesie. The way Sendak transforms Max’s bedroom into a wilderness filled with strange and fascinating creatures is remarkable.
As a child, I thought poetry was boring until I discovered Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl. Revolting Rhymes is Dahl’s take on traditional nursery rhymes through twisted sarcasm and juicy humour. Quentin Blake’s sketchy illustration style complements this collection of dark poetry perfectly. The drawing of the Big Bad Wolf after he devoured two of the little pigs is a personal fave.
Although many teachers from the 1980s may disagree, Choose Your Own Adventure books were viewed as quality AND essential reading by the kids of that generation. They were fun, easy to read, had cracking illustrations and gave the reader the power to choose how the story would end up. I remember trying to collect as many from the series as possible, and … I would always cheat. I’d read the endings first and work my way back … but at least I was reading! My favourite Choose Your Own Adventure book was Gorga the Space Monster. Gorga was a cute and cuddly purple Alien. But watch out – choose the wrong path and Gorga could accidentally devour you in one breath! It was awesome!
I guess people are either Asterix or Tin Tin fans. I’m definitely the latter. The Tin Tin series has been a phenomenal success over the years and the books have always been popular in the schools that I’ve attended as a student and now a teacher. Tin Tin books have timeless appeal with each page exploding with good old-fashioned action. The stories usually involve some kind of mystery that sends Tin Tin, Captain Haddock and Snowy the Dog off to every corner of the globe. These iconic characters constantly erupt with personality and flare and always seemed to be involved in a high speed car/plane/boat/motorcycle chase. Explorers on the Moon was the most enjoyable read for me from the series.
I’m always amazed by the incredible creativity and imagination of Shaun Tan. His wonderfully strange stories are complemented with just as unusual, but always breathtaking, artwork. The Lost Thing picture book was later transformed into an animated short film, which won Shaun Tan an Academy Award. Each year at my school, I always make a point of showing every new class The Lost Thing film … it’s magical!
My Place is a very special book and one of its creators has played a very important role in my life. Not only is My Place one of the great Australian picture books about the nation’s ever-changing landscape, but it is also one that changed my artistic landscape forever. In 2012, illustrator Donna Rawlins visited my school to talk about My Place (I’m a primary school Art teacher). Donna spied some of my drawings hanging around the school. She took a fancy to one of them and asked me to meet with her colleagues at Walker Books Australia. From this meeting, The Bloodhound Boys was born and so was my career as a children’s author/illustrator. Whenever I see My Place in the library or being read by a student, I always think of Donna and this very special day. Thanks Donna!
Teachers and Teacher-Librarians have found this series resonating with reluctant readers. Why do you think that is?
Graphic novels, like the Bloodhound Boys series, are now becoming an essential component of library collections for children and, I believe, have enormous potential for classroom use and in particular for reluctant readers. I think trends have changed dramatically since I was in primary school. My experiences as a youngster growing up was if a teacher saw me reading a graphic novel-type piece of literature or a comic, it may have been dismissed as a bad influence as it undermined “real reading”. It was said to be “not a real book” and suggested perhaps I should move onto more “quality literature”.
So I think making all types of reading material in libraries accessible and varied, including graphic novels, is important. If a variety of literature is out and about for children to be immersed in, particularly for those reluctant readers, the greater the chance they will pick something up and find something they will enjoy.
You’ve visited schools to talk about The Bloodhound Boys. What’s the best question you’ve been asked? What’s the weirdest question?
Best question: Are there any characters from The Bloodhound Boys that are similar to you? Answer: Probably Rocky Werewolf because he and I both need a shave!
Weirdest question: Do you believe in magic. Answer: Of course!!
If you could invite five authors (alive or dead) to a dinner party in Skull River, who would they be?
Wow! If I could invite five authors to a dinner party in Skull River, I would ask Shaun Tan,Neil Gaiman (graphic novel author), Scott Campbell (American children’s author and cartoonist), George RR Martin (author of Game of Thrones) and Roald Dahl. That would be an enjoyable dinner party!