As part of the Countdown to 5th June blog festivities (read more about it all here), today I have the lovely Ellie Irving stopping by for an interview. Today also happens to be Ellie's birthday (and my dad's too - ha!) so do wish her a good day. And read her new book The Mute Button because it's brilliant (published on June 5th!).
Thanks Ellie (and Jim for organising), and happy birthday!
Wondrous Reads: Hi Ellie and thanks for answering my questions for Countdown to 5th June! I'm still a relative newcomer to your books, so please can you tell us a little bit about what you've written so far?
Ellie Irving: Hi Jenny, thanks for hosting me! I guess the books that I write are funny, quirky stories for 9+. In my first two books – FOR THE RECORD and BILLIE TEMPLAR’S WAR – the main characters are ordinary kids who end up recruiting various (and normally quite eccentric) members of their community in order to help them achieve their (normally very eccentric) goal. My latest, THE MUTE BUTTON, is a little different, in that Anthony has to get there all on his own.
WR: Having read and loved your new book, The Mute Button, I'd love to know more about your inspirations for the story. How did you come up with Anthony Button and his crazy but lovely family?
EI: Thank you! I knew that I wanted to write a story in a diary format, because I’d not done that before, and I knew that I wanted to write something about a boy who stops talking as a way of attention seeking. So then I had to think, well, why does he constantly seek attention? Because he’s got a very large and very loud family and often feels ignored in the midst of them all, that’s why! So his crazy family – all five siblings, a stressed-out mum and a hapless dad, plus their suicidal cat - grew from there.
WR: The Mute Button may seem quite fun and flighty at a first glance, but there's actually a lot more to it than meets the eye. Did you always intend to write a more serious book?
EI: I always try to write about serious issues – whether that’s kids dealing with grief, bullying, or low self-esteem – but with a light and fun touch. I don’t want to bash readers over the head with ‘serious messages,’ but at the same time, I want to write stories with a little bit of depth to them – something that leaves the reader laughing and a bit teary in equal measure.
WR: Who is your personal favourite character from The Mute Button? Mine would have to be Badger the suicidal cat!
EI: Mine’s going to have to be Anthony. I spent the most amount of time in his head, and even though he acts like a brat at times, I completely understood his reasons for doing so. Though I do have a soft spot for poor old Jacob, who often gets the brunt of Anthony’s bad moods. Funnily enough, Badger the suicidal cat, was a last-minute addition to the story, so I’m glad you liked him!
WR: Have you ever voluntarily decided to stop speaking? If not, do you think you could manage it?
EI: I spent a day last year not-talking, as part of my research process for writing the book. It didn’t go well. I shamed myself in Costa by attempting to be funny and write a note to the Barista saying, ‘ONE SOYA LATTE TO STAY IN, PLEASE. THANKS A LATTE,’ and even though they didn’t laugh me out of the shop, I haven’t had the guts to go back since. I also got into a spot of bother when I tried to answer the phone. I don’t know how those crazy kids who do 24 hour Sponsored Silences for Comic Relief do it. Sit me in a bath of baked beans any day.
WR: How excited were you when you found out Tony Ross was illustrating your brilliant cover? Did you have any say in how Anthony is portrayed?
EI: Super excited! Tony Ross is a legend, and I feel so privileged that his illustration is adorning the cover of my book! The first thing I knew about it was when my editor emailed me Tony’s design and it was so spot-on, I didn’t have to change a thing!
WR: What are you writing next and can you tell us anything about it?
EI: I’ve just finished the first draft of my next book, ‘FLEECED’ about a boy who owns a rare and valuable sheep that everyone tries to steal. It’s more of an out-and-out crazy, funny caper of a story, I think. Though there’s still plenty of time to add in Baa-d sheep puns in the next draft.
WR: Now for a few quickfire questions...
WR: Favourite cheese?
EI: Brie. No, wait. Goats cheese. No, Stilton. Brie. Definitely Brie. God, I love cheese.
WR: Top 3 children's books?
EI: The Witches by Roald Dahl, Grimble and Grimble at Christmas by Clement Freud, and Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter.
WR: Star Wars or Star Trek?
EI: Star Wars, 100%. Though I did like the last Star Trek film. That’s 100% due to Benedict Cumberbatch being in it, to be honest. Did I just say that? How embarrassing.*waves hand in Jedi fashion.* You can go about your business. Move along. Move along.
WR: Marvel or DC?
EI: Marvel. For Thor, largely. See above reasons and replace Benedict Cumberbatch with Tom Hiddleston.
WR: If you could be a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
What’s the one in Jurassic Park who hops into Dennis’s car as he’s stealing the dinosaur embryos, fans out the skin round its neck into a sort of collar, and then spits venom in his face? That one, please.
[WR: It's the Dilophosaurus. One of the coolest dinosaurs in the film. Good choice!)
- Ellie's official site: Ellie Irving.com
- Follow Ellie on Twitter: @Ellie_Irving
- UK publisher's site: Random House Children's Books