1. What drew you to write children’s stories?
I write and produce picture books. I call them that because they are not necessarily for children. My slogan is ‘for kids aged between 6 & 99yrs old!” I’m interested in stimulating a dialogue between adults and children about their experience. I hope that’s what my books make the readers want to do. Talk and discuss and reflect on their own experience. I love art and literature so picture books are the perfect medium for me. Some of my books are not even ‘stories’ rather than concepts.
2. Do you draw from your English background and upbringing?
I guess I do, but almost inadvertently, so not directly. However, Spaceball uses the city of Manchester England as a theme for location and Old Trafford is mentioned. Perhaps in the way I express myself in the books. I do have another book planned which is based in London England.
3. Where did the idea for Spaceball come from?
I wanted to write an exciting book using the dynamic themes of soccer and space. I think all ideas just come from challenging your own understanding. i was reading about Einstein and gravity and i thought this might be a cool way of understanding an aspect of gravitational force, amongst other things. The book is actually about how we understand our own histories and the ‘forces’ that influence that aswell.
4. What message does the book give children?
See question 3 above. I’m interested in bringing the reader to a point where they want to consider their place in history and how their social history differs from other cultural perspectives. The whole book pivots on the expression ‘the history of everything’. The child telling the story stops to consider what that means.
5. How long did the process of writing Spaceball take?
About a month. Not long at all once I knew what I wanted to do. I let the planets guide me! The illustrations took longer but it was so much fun to do, and I wanted to create images that especially children would feel were organic, to encourage them to make their own books with collage and crayon and whatever they can get their hands on.
6. How does writing a book, short stories and writing poetry differ?
For me with picture books there’s always an idea you’re developing and revising constantly, editing while writing but also afterwards, going back to it again and again is important, checking for fluency, ‘sense’ and whether what you’ve done honours your intention. Projects can change a lot as well. The research phase is always very interesting and so much of the spontaneity of my writing happens when I’m reading around. I think it’s not so much genre but authors that have different processes. Books have personally taken me longer to produce though. A short story can be 500words. I don’t write much poetry but when I do it’s almost like a wave of energy, so it’s quite quick for me. Whether it’s any ‘good’ is another matter!
7. Where do you get ideas from?
From Walmart. 🙂 They have them on special right now. Just kidding. I think you can train your mind to be receptive. Ideas are everywhere I think, it’s not difficult for me. I have a to-do list on my wall of the next ten picture books I want to do, but there are loads of ideas on scraps and memos in various places. I think you have to have a type of curiosity that isn’t easily satisfied if that makes sense, and a willingness to take a ‘fact’ and explore what might have been or what another perspective might bring. I think the imagination is a way of connecting and exploring one’s understanding and associations from different perspectives and perhaps extending that understanding. I have ideas that are years old and I like to leave them in my head for a while, pickling and marinating! I think you can tell I like cooking 🙂
8. Do you have a project(s) in progress?
Yes I think I answered this in question 7 above. More specifically I’m just completing a picture book now called ‘What’s your favourite colour’ illustrated by Stella Avolio. Another project has been planned and will start soon called ‘Farewell’ with a different illustrator and I have a book I really want to do, the London-based one I referred to above, but I want to both write and illustrate that myself.
9. What is your view on reading and writing for children?
Reading for children is very important. I was read to as a child and I loved the experience. I haven’t done an audio book yet but I’d love to get round to it. It’s great to have a book animated by real voices.
As I said (if I understand your question) I don’t write for children necessarily, but more for the social interaction between generations, to generate discussion between adults and children.
10. Where can readers find you and your books?
All my books are online. Google Matthew Bennett Young and you will see!