I’m joined on the blog by the very lovely children’s author Maudie Smith. Maudie’s latest book is The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch, but she was kind enough to send me a signed copy of her debut novel - Opal Moonbaby and the Best Friend Project for Chloe (which I had to keep rescuing from the clutches of her 5 year old sister Teagan who's currently going through a "MINE!" phase). It is the first of three books about the very energetic alien, Opal Moonbaby, who comes to Earth and turns ten year old Martha's life downside up. Described as 'particularly for girls who prefer feisty and funny to pink and sparkly', it sounded like the perfect fit for Chloe and we worked together on her first ever book review which you can check out here. The fact that it reminded me of one of my favourite books as a kid – Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – was a happy coincidence!
In the meantime, Maudie was born and raised in Nottingham and is heading home for the first time in a long time, so I caught up with her about her writing career and her childhood, plus a few thrown in from the random question generator that is my wandering mind.
It's going to be fun being back in Nottingham. It's a long time since I grew up there. Here's a photo of me in my school uniform, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth. Don't you believe it though! We lived on Derby Road, also known as the A52, and a main route into the city. We had a big gate post at the bottom of our drive that looked like a castle's turret. My brother and I used to collect berries from a laurel bush, which we stashed in a bucket. When we had enough, we would hide in the gate turret and throw the berries at passing cars. We pretended that we were the good guys, and all people in cars were evil (ahead of our time, you see). It was a very exciting game, but came to an abrupt halt when a driver stopped his car and complained to our dad. Oops!
Random question generator - Which book would you most like to see made into a (good) movie?
One of mine! The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch would be a good choice for Studio Ghibli. Shall we let them know? But since it's not ALL about me, I think Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front is a fantastic book that would also make a great film. I never get tired of the psammead.
I always picture authors to have been very imaginative kids. Were you a make believe or a playing in the dirt kind of girl growing up?
I was always pretending to be someone else. I was usually a girl called Jo, riding an imaginary horse around the garden. Sometimes I banished myself to the attic, being Sara Crewe from my favourite book, A Little Princess, and occasionally I was glamorous Southern belle, Penelope Pitstop, from the TV show, The Wacky Races. My ambition then was to be an actor, and acting was my first career. All those years of pretending, in work and play, have proved very useful to me in my writing. Because writing convincing characters is all about putting yourself in other people's shoes.
Random question generator - If you could travel back to any time period, where would it be and why?
The court of Queen Elizabeth I, please - there are so many stories about her, it would be fascinating to find out what she was really like. If I'm going, though, I'd like to be fully vaccinated please, in case of sixteenth century lurgies.
What inspired you to start writing?
Initially it was my kindergarten teacher, the rather scary Mrs Heffernen, who, nonetheless, taught me to read and to write. I immediately began elaborate tales of evil goblins, stirring up trouble and vats of molten toffee. Later on, it was my daughters. Reading so many books to them and seeing what their reading tastes were made me want to write for them. The Opal Moonbaby books were the result.
Random question generator - If you could be stuck in a lift with one book character, who would it be and why?
I'm not keen on lifts at the best of times, so I think I'd pick Pippi Longstocking. She's so strong I'm sure she'd find a way to get us out. And if she couldn't, her irrepressible optimism would keep me from curling up in the corner.
Who is your favourite author/which author do you most admire?
There are so many. Three from my childhood: Dr Zeuss, E Nesbit, Catherine Storr. Three from today: Eva Ibbotson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Gill Lewis.
Random question generator - What one item do you never leave the house without?
I have a big handbag so I can always have a book with me. At the moment it's short stories by Rose Tremain - fabulous!
What advice would you give yourself starting out now as a writer?
Stick interesting things in scrapbooks: photos, sayings, snatches of conversation - you never know what might spark an idea. And write regularly, even if you don't think there's anything to say.
Random question generator - Tea of coffee?
Both. My day goes: tea, tea tea, coffee, coffee, tea tea tea. Too much caffeine?
If you could go back in time and give your childhood self one bit of advice, what would it be?
Think twice before you climb those pointy railings. Your skirt will have to be Selotaped and so will you.
The Review(s) - Opal Moonbaby and The Best Friend ProjectMartha has decided she doesn’t want to have friends anymore. Friends are stupid. Especially her old friends Chloe and Collette. Until she meets Opal Moonbaby, who’s been sent to earth on a mission to make a friend.
Opal Moonbaby and the Best Friend Project is a wonderfully quirky book, from the Roald Dahl-esque illustrations to the incredibly cute fish out of water story as Opal tries to make sense of the alien world of Earth. One of my (many) weaknesses in books is a lovable but slightly clueless character! It’s a good book for girls, probably late single digits and pre-teens, at that age where simple friendships start to become more complicated and feel a bit more fragile. Despite being way, way over the target age for this one I really enjoyed reading it with Chloe. It harks back to days of simple stories and reminds me that we all need a little magic in our lives.
I loved Opal Moonbaby and The Best Friend Project! I really liked Opal’s personality and how she kept getting things wrong about Earth, but I liked hearing about Opal’s home planet as well! I love to have a friend like her, and pet like Garnet. It was really funny at times and I had to stop reading because I was laughing so much. I think the writer did a really good job of showing friendships, the story reminded me of some of my friends and made me think that we shouldn’t fall out so much. I would recommend this book to girls who like reading if they’re my age. I didn’t want to book to end, it kept me excited to read more the whole way though. I’ve already asked Kayla to buy me the next book in the series!