The latest title from the dynamic duo of Greg James and Chris Smith is as funny as you would hope. Their blog post below is equally as funny! Scroll down and enjoy the antics!
We’re often asked how we get the ideas for our stories. (We’re occasionally asked why as well, but let’s not go into that here.) Coming up with a creative idea, as we always tell the audience at our live shows, is something you can consciously choose to do. You don’t have to wander about waiting for a muse to strike you – you can actively go out looking for one and grab it!
One of the best ways we’ve found of doing this is to pick a topic and then fill your brain with everything you can find out about it. We knew we wanted to write a book about dreams, so we spent a long time reading loads about the mythology and folklore surrounding dreams and nightmares.
Myths and ancient tales are an amazing way to get your imagination firing, and it’s nice to have some very old things underpinning your writing – a solid foundation to build on. For instance, we used the tradition that the red berries of the rowan tree can ward off evil to create the superhero Sir Jasper Rowntree in the Kid Normal series, and his home Witchberry Hall.
There’s a huge amount of folklore surrounding dreams from all over the world, of course. Some of this didn’t end up in The Great Dream Robbery – like Nott the goddess of night who rides a horse called Frostmane, or Baldur who can only be wounded by mistletoe. But lots of it did. We read lots about the mythology surrounding Adam’s first wife in ancient tales, and borrowed her name – Lilith – for our villain. There’s a very old tradition that stones with a hole in them can be hung by your bed to ward off nightmares – they’re called hag stones. So Hagstone Court became a hospital in our story.
Of course, inspiration can come from much more mundane places too. The original idea of talking about dreams came from passing a skip in the street, and we decided there was a hidden organisation called the Hopes and Dreams Recycling Department. They come round at night collecting unfulfilled ambitions and re-assigning them to other people. The HDRD never saw the light of day – literally – but the idea of a story about dreams just wouldn’t go away.
In our original version of the story, things were much darker. There were actual creatures from nightmares, and Lilith was making a deal with them which would unleash real-life nightmares on the world. Our hero, Maya, was going to end up having to trap her father in a bad dream forever in order to save everyone else. But we have a question that we ask ourselves if the story feels like it’s spiralling into a dark place: is there a funnier or sillier version of this? So we dialled back on the nightmare theme and inserted some talking llamas and a badger restaurant instead.
So, what’s our advice for going out and grabbing your own muse? Simple. Firstly, look for inspiration everywhere. Walk around with a wide open brain. Once you’ve picked a general theme, fill your head with as much knowledge about it as you possibly can. And finally and most importantly: if in doubt, put a badger in.
The Great Dream Robbery by Greg James and Chris Smith, Illustrations by Amy Nguyen is published by Puffin and available from the 16th of September.