A couple of weeks ago I presented awards to the winners of the short story competition run by the Leukaemia Cancer Society. I'd judged the competition, so the whole thing was a delight and a triumph. For me. I have no idea whether anybody else enjoyed it, but very few people walked out or threw things during my speech. I took that as a good sign.
Afterwards, I was sent the following interview questions by a Mr Sam Ross of Hazelwood School, one of the schools that had taken part in the competition.
His school newsletter is called NUTS ABOUT HAZELWOOD. This delights me. Here is the interview. It's very deep.
How did you find judging the competition?It was tough but fun. There were so many good entries and some of them were so good that I forgot I was judging a competition and just got caught up in the story. So it was very difficult to pick the winners. I also wanted to make sure all of the entrants felt encouraged to keep writing, because even the writers who weren’t picked as winners showed loads of promise – much more than I showed at the same age and I’m now a professional writer!
What matters is persevering, practising, reading and believing you can do it. Of course, sometimes people believe they can do anything and they’re wrong. That accounts for most of the nutcases who audition for Britain’s Got Talent or the X-Factor. But you have to start off believing you can do something and keep going until Simon Cowell tells you you’re wrong, or life wears you down (which doesn’t happen until you’re 32, so don’t worry about that yet), or you get arrested for doing the thing that you believe you can do so well. Try to avoid being really good at the things in that last category.
Did you like the Hazelwood entries?Yes. I liked them very much. Based on the quality of the entries and what they were about, I started to get an impression of Hazelwood as a place. So in my mind, Hazelwood is amazing, full of bright colours and mystery and adventure and room after room of creative geniuses sitting on beanbags, holding their chins and looking up at the ceiling (which is painted blue with a couple of fluffy white clouds) and they’re all going ‘hmmmmm...’ in deep thought. Every now and again one of them (in a suit with an open-necked shirt) removes his square-rimmed glasses and shouts “I’VE GOT IT!” then uses a fat, green crayon to scribble something amazing in a giant notebook. Then he calls up Damien Hirst and says, “DAMIEN MY BOY GET HERE NOW I NEED AN ILLUSTRATOR.” That’s the impression I got of Hazelwood based on your entries.
According to the short piece about you on the back of the final book, you have a pet dwarf crocodile called Professor Sven. Is this true?Everything is true. Sort of. Or nothing is true. Or neither of those things is true. What is ‘truth’? Can there really be an objective TRUTH that stands alone, separate from the observer? What if the observer isn’t human? Could a squirrel see something and make it true just by looking? What if the squirrel is only looking for nuts and thinks that what it sees is a nut? And what if it isn’t a nut it’s a BUS? Is the bus a nut? Is that true? IS IT? Hope that answers your question.
Are you going to write any more books in the near future?Yes – I hope so! As long as publishers and readers continue to want new books from me, and as long as I can keep coming up with new ideas, I’ll keep writing. Actually, at the moment I’m working on a movie script, so if that goes well then I might never write another book again, but that would be a shame because I enjoy writing books and I think I’m pretty good at it. I also have two or three half-written books on my computer, so at some point I’d like to finish them off and perhaps even get them published. Wouldn’t that be a fine thing? In fact, I’d make that more likely to happen if I stopped rambling on with these answers to your questions and got down to some SERIOUS WORK. So... I’m going to do that. Bye. Thanks for the questions!