Meet the Makers: Kids Authors Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
To celebrate World Book Day, we’ve got fantastic author-illustrator duo, Sue and Paul, to answer a few questions for us! These two are
How do you come up with an idea for a new book?
Paul: It’s not so much coming up with an idea, but more like discovering one while it’s scurrying about minding its own business. We write silly stories so we are constantly looking out for cases of ‘silly’ and when we find them, we write about them.
Sue: I concur, one of us will notice a bit of ‘silly’, pitch the idea to the other then together we will try to flesh it out. Sometimes that idea is just a sketch on a scrap of paper, or a joke, or a concept (where do fish fingers come from for example).
What’s your favourite book that you’ve written?
Paul: My favourite book is always the one that I’ve only written in my head. It’s always the funniest, most clever and brilliant book ever written. Also in my head, I am the most charming and cleverest person. The real world is useful for adding a little practicality and truth to an over-excited imagination.
Sue: Yes Paul, sometimes you do indeed need to take a big gulp from the container marked ‘real world’. My favourite book that we’ve ever written (that actually exists!) has got to be the first Dave book. It’s about a cat who gets stuck in a cat flap. His friends feed him beans in the hope that the buildup of gas becomes so great that he will blast his way out. It actually builds up to such an extent that he becomes air born. Essentially it’s a story about a giant fart, which you would imagine would be uncouth, but farting is never mentioned. I think that the book feels gentle and tasteful regardless of its subject matter. Also, Dave is a lot like me in personality, it’s easy to write in his voice and I have a great understanding with him.
Which books have had the biggest impression on you?
Paul: I had a gloomy childhood in a gloomy town so the beautiful, colourful adventures of Tintin took me away from the gloom. I loved them.
Sue: I liked silly books, a particular favourite was (and still is) Mr Silly by Roger Hargreaves. Another massive favourite that I now enjoy reading with my little girl is The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide. Edward Gorey’s illustrations are fantastic.
Talk us through what a typical day looks like for you
Paul: At 4 or 5 in the morning we are awoken by noisy students outside shouting in the street. Then we try to sleep but are woken by a bouncy daughter at 7ish. Next we do our morning worship at the coffee maker. After the school run, it’s straight to our desks which are in the same room. The room also contains lots of drawing and making equipment and the recently added wall of steel! We talk and debate and sketch and attach stuff to the wall of steel with little magnets (my favourite bit) until we have a shiny new story. At 3pm one of us will go and collect our daughter from school. Depending on how scary our work deadline is, we’ll either go back to our desks or we’ll all mess about until 7.30pm (daughter’s bedtime!). Then we will usually carry on working until our eyes stop cooperating.
Sue: that’s actually pretty accurate!
Where did it all start? Did you always want to be a writer?
Paul: I enjoyed creative writing at school and was always in a world of my own as a child. I used to make up scenarios for my friends then we would run around the woods acting out alien invasions and the like. As I grew up and found myself occasionally having to do very boring jobs, the world of fantasy and imagination became really useful. One day, I fancy winning the Booker Prize but I think I’ll need to up my game from knitted bears who need a wee.
Sue: I never dreamed I could do the writing. I trained as an illustrator and that was absolutely the best job I could imagine having. It was my wildest dream to illustrate books, I couldn’t believe it when it came true. And then, when I gave writing a try, it meant I could draw the things I wrote about, all my favourite things! When I met Paul (daft twit with a similar silly sense of humour) and we started to write and illustrate together- then things really started to fall into place.
What could you not work without?
Paul: Consciousness! No, that’s a silly answer.
Sue: Um, coffee is helpful.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Sue: Paul can’t answer this because every day working in a box room with me is the happiest moment of his life.
Why did you decide to get involved with world book day?
Paul: Any opportunity to get people excited about reading is high on the list of important stuff. Plus it makes our daughter really embarrassed with all the publicity. Bonus!
Sue: It’s an honour and a privilege to be involved with WBD! It’s about lovely, shiny books!!! And we get to leave our office and meet people and have fun.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Sue and Paul: Oh yes!