Guest Post with Tom Fletcher.
When we heard that there is a sequel to the biggest debut middle-grade novel of 2016 The Christmasaurus due for publication this October we had to find out more and set about asking author Tom Fletcher lots of questions on the latest title. We are thrilled to be able to share this Q&A here on the FCBG Blog.
- How would you describe The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch using just one sentence?
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch is a magical sequel to The Christmasaurus in which William Trundle goes on an adventure to the North Pole, and ends up having to save the future of Christmas itself.
2) What inspired you to continue the story and write a sequel to The Christmasaurus?
There were some ideas I had in the first book that I didn’t end up using which I felt were really interesting starting points for a new story. Christmas is something that comes round every year and I wanted to explore what would happen the next Christmas! William would obviously want to see the Christmasaurus, and I wanted to find out: does the Christmasaurus still pull Santa’s sleigh? Does he come and visit William? The friendship they created in book one felt like a friendship that would last forever, and they would probably meet again, so what kind of adventures would they then go on? And the idea of time travel is something I’m really fascinated with, and I think plays a part in Christmas, because, how does Santa travel to you, around the world, on Christmas Eve in one night? He does harness the power of time somehow, so I thought that would be an interesting thing to explore and a starting place for the book.
3) Where does your fascination with Christmas come from?
I think I get it from my parents. My parents made Christmas really magical for me as a kid, and I’ve got a younger sister so Christmas was always magical. Even when I was in my teens and late teens, it was still really magical in my house, and so I guess I just never grew out of it and I still find it magical to this day. And now I’ve got kids of my own which gives a whole new kind of meaning to Christmas. I love that we go back and revisit the same Christmas traditions – music, film, and shows – every year, and every now and then, there will be a new one that get’s added to the list. I wanted to write something that would be the next evolution of making Christmas magical for kids, and The Christmasaurus is my attempt at that.
4) Do you work with the illustrators on your books?
I love working with illustrators because they are incredibly talented and really inspire me, and so I like to give them as many of my visual ideas as I can. I write quite visually, so I see things quite specifically in my head, but then I also know that I’m working with extremely talented artists who always come back with something that I wasn’t thinking of and surprise me, and quite often will then influence the way that I write the text. I’ll send them my first draft and loads of visual references for the way the characters look and the way the world looks, but I think they all know that they have the freedom to create whatever they want to. If they have ideas, I’m open to that collaborative process and it’s a really, really brilliant experience, particularly with Shane on The Christmasaurus because his illustrations are so complex and detailed.
5) How does writing picture books differ from writing middle-grade and YA?
They are very similar, apart from the time it takes to write them. Obviously, writing a novel is far more time-consuming, and requires more emotional investment and planning for a longer period of time. Whereas picture books, you still go through the same process of creating the story, but it’s just a lot shorter and faster, so it sometimes feel a bit more satisfying, because you can write them in a night and feel like you’ve written a whole world and new character. I get the same sort of buzz and satisfaction from writing both, and a very similar feeling.
6) Has anything in any of your books ever happened to you?
Lots of the stuff happens to me, I take a lot from real-life experiences. Like in The Christmasaurus, when William gets covered in cream in the supermarket, that happened to me, I got loads of cream on me in the supermarket once. I think most authors draw on experiences, even if they don’t intentionally do it, you can’t help but be influenced by the things you experience in your life.
7) Which of all your characters in your books are you most like?
I am most like Bob Trundle with his Christmas obsession. I started writing these books just as I’d become a dad myself, so I think when writing a dad character at the same time as becoming a father, you can’t help but put yourself into that character. Bob Trundle is also a lot like my dad, and I think I’m basically just turning into my own dad…!
8) What does a day in the life look like for you when you’re writing?
It’s quite hectic in the morning, because I’m normally getting the kids ready for school, so we’re up really early. Then I will take the kids to school, and by that point I would have planned what I’m writing, so I know exactly what I need to write and it’s just a case of running into the room, grabbing some snacks and some coffee, and writing as much as I can in the time that I’ve got. I’ve not had writer’s block or anything like that, so it’s literally a case of I know exactly what I want to write, and it’s an excited rush of “I’ve got this amount of time and I want to get it all down”, especially the first draft, you just want to get it all out as quickly as possible. It’s a lot of writing in a short period of time, so some days I write maybe five or six thousand words, whereas I think if I’ve got more time, I might only write a thousand words, or one and a half thousand words, and it’s good to have that little restriction, that little window of time before you have to do the school drop-offs, because you end up getting more done, you’re more productive.
9) What is the one piece of advice you wished you’d received when starting out?
To plan more, because when I first started writing I didn’t plan as much: I loosely planned. Whereas now I do more research and I plan in a lot more detail, because it just makes it easier, you get all of the hard work out of the way rather than doing the hard work while you’re writing. It’s nice, because you sit down to write and you think “I’m really happy with the past version of myself, because he did all that hard work for me, and now I can just enjoy writing”, whereas the first couple of books I started writing and then thought “oh I can’t write this yet without exploring what that character does” so then I had to do all the research on the spot. So yes I think I would advise myself to plan more.
10) How has music inspired your writing and your books?
Music has inspired every aspect of my life, particularly books and then particularly The Christmasaurus, because I love Christmas and Christmas music, so it’s always on when I’m writing, and it helps you get into that kind of emotional, happy state that you’re in around Christmas. At Christmas, you feel a certain way that you don’t feel at any other time of the year, and it’s, weirdly, really easy to recreate that, and it’s normally things like music that are the triggers to get you into that kind of happy Christmassy vibe.
11) What one book would you recommend children ask Santa for this Christmas?
My favourite book which I always recommend, that everyone has to read at some point, is Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the start, the setup of the wizarding world, so I love the first one because it’s when you’re discovering all of the magic that is then going to follow in the rest of the books. It’s such an epic journey, and reading that first book, you know you’ve got this incredible journey ahead of you. So I would definitely recommend if you haven’t read that, start the Harry Potter series.
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch, £12.99 (Hardback) and There’s An Elf in Your Book, £11.99, (Hardback) by Tom Fletcher are out in October, published by Puffin.
Competition : For a chance to win one of five copies of The Christmasaurus and The Winter Witch you need to send us an email to email@example.com and tell us the name of the boy in The Christmasaurus. The Competition ends 31st October 2019 and winners will be notified by email.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.