Q&A with Simon Farnaby

A fantastic set of questions posed by the lovely folk at Hachette to hilarious writer, Simon Farnaby!

What is The Wizard in My Shed about?

It’s about a wizard- well, he’s actually a Warlock, which is a bad wizard- called Merdyn the Wild.  When we first meet him in the story, he’s on trial in the Dark Ages and he gets sentenced to the rivers of purgatory- but his enemy actually sends him into The Rivers of Time, and he ends up in the modern day. There he meets a young girl called Rose who is desperate to win a talent show. They form an unlikely friendship and hatch a plan to help each other out – Rose says she’ll help Merdyn navigate the modern world and return to his own time and Merdyn promises to give her a singing spell in return. Comedy ensues!

What was your inspiration for the story?

I’ve always enjoyed stories about children who meet strange figures and form unlikely friendships. Books like Stig of the Dump by Clive King and films like ET are the kinds of stories I really like. Even with Paddington, at its heart it’s really a story about two children who end up living with a bear- and I started thinking ‘What would it be like living with a Wizard? What if magic was actually real?’

The influence of working on shows like Horrible Histories and my sense of humour is also very much in this book. The Horrible Histories character Stupid Deaths is a lot like Merdyn in a way – he’s a bit full of himself and he takes pleasure in the misfortunes of others!

How did you find writing a children’s book after working on film and TV?

When you write a screen play, you have to hand it over to a director and the director calls the shots from then on. Writing a book gives you the freedom to be the set designer, the casting director, the actors – you have all the control! Writing a book is like making a film for people to play in their heads as they read. It’s very freeing!

Saying that, making kids laugh is one of the hardest things to do. They’re quite judgemental. So, if I’m doing that then things are good! The book isn’t childish though- there are some quite complex themes in it. I hope that kids and adults will enjoy it.

What part of the book did you enjoy writing most?

I enjoy writing the dialogue and the voices. I think there’s great comedy value in writing characters “out of their time”. I have included a lot of genuine language from the past in the book, like the names they used to call people. My favourite is ‘fopdoodle’, which is an Old English word for when someone is lazy or useless. There’s actually a theory that ‘dude’ came out of ‘fopdoodle’. I like turning facts into funny things- which I suppose is quite Horrible Histories too.

Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Remember to make bad things happen to your characters! When I started, I used to write stories where nothing ever happens, but conflict is story and all stories need conflict. Ask yourself what is the thing standing in the way of your character getting what they want? Set your character an obstacle and really put them through it. The twists and turns will make your story much more satisfying.

And keep going! Writing can feel scary when you start, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

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