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Tuesday 25 March 2014

Meet the Author - Children's author Lindsey Little talks about her adventures with James Munkers

Lindsey Little took time out of her busy schedule in rainy Tasmania to chat with us about her crazy adventures in creating James Munkers, the unlikely teenage hero of James Munkers: Super Freak, due for release in April!

James Munkers’ world is changing. New town. New school.

New hallucinations of bright blue animals wreaking havoc.

And when you add a leather-clad maniac who haunts the back garden, the loopy girl at school with her messages of doom, a cryptic prophecy and a bunch of shadowy strangers intent on murder, it looks as though James won’t even make it to Christmas.

Anna Bartlett interviews Lindsey Little, author of James Munkers: Super Freak.

AB: One of the aspects of James Munkers that has always stood out to the IP Picks judges is James’s voice: cynical, irreverent and very convincing. Now, James is a 15-year-old boy. Given that you’re not, and never have been, how did you make his voice so authentic?

LL: I think it helped that James is a big girl (with no offence intended to James or girls). If I’d been writing from the point of view of a macho kind of guy I might have struggled with it, but James is in turn cowardly, whiney, pathetic, shy and physically inept. I’m sorry to say I can relate to all of these things, and remember with painful accuracy the awkwardness of being fifteen.

I think the real reason he works for me, though, is because his motivations aren’t gender-specific. He wants to be happy, have friends, not be embarrassed by his family every second of the day, and not be killed by maniacs lobbing daggers at his head. These are things we can all relate to.

AB: Were there any tricks you used, when writing James Munkers, to help you tap into his voice?

LL: Sorry, no tricks. I actually find it easier to write in James’s voice than in my own. He seems to have stronger opinions than I do, and a lot more happens to him, so there’s been many a time when not only can I tap into his voice but I can’t get him to shut up.

When I started writing James Munkers I did so without planning anything: no plot, no voice, no idea. James is just what happened. His voice comes very naturally to me.

AB: James Munkers is exactly the sort of book teenage boys will love: packed with fights, escapes, magical explosions and a healthy dose of humour. What was the inspiration for the story?

LL: I wrote what I thought my sister would like to read, which was easy, because that’s what I’d want to read myself. My only preparation for the book, in the absence of a detailed plot or character assessments or any clue at all, was to write down a list of things I wanted to include. At that point, I thought it might be the only book I’d ever write, so I crammed in all the elements I loved in other people’s books: the fantasy of Harry Potter and The Dark is Rising; the adventure and excitement of the Cherub books; the modern, funny narrative of Nick Hornby; the big, crazy family of Gerald Durrell and The Dark is Rising again. That’s what I read, so that’s what I wrote.

AB: The cast of characters you’ve assembled around James – siblings, friends, leather-clad maniacs, teachers – stand out as being both original and quirky. Are any of them drawn from real life – or aren’t you allowed to say?

LL: Just the twins. I don’t usually approve of twins in books – they are so often used as plot devices and are rarely portrayed properly – but seeing as I am a twin, I decided I could break my own rule. Interestingly enough, though, it’s not a case of my sister being one of the twins and me being the other. I’m neither of them. She’s both.

I tell you what, though – I found one of my characters in real life after I’d written him. When I met my supervisor for my masters’ thesis, I kept thinking, “I know you. Where do I know you from?” It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I suddenly went, “Oh my god, you’re Mr Lancer!” Exactly as I’d pictured him. So there you go.

AB: What’s the most useful thing you’ve learnt about writing, throughout the whole writing-and-editing process?

LL: That you can’t fix your book until you’ve written the words first. I used to check and recheck every word I wrote as I wrote it and, consequently, did not get very far. It was only when I eventually thought, “Screw you, words, I’m writing you anyway,” that I started to make progress. Now I write my first drafts in a frenzy, not thinking about plot or characterisation or anything, and often find that my instinct will kick in and the plot will develop naturally on its own. The first draft is about your guts; put your brain on hold until the editing begins. You’ll definitely need it then.

AB: And what did you find the hardest part about writing James Munkers?

LL: Starting, and stopping. I’d wanted to write a book since I was little, but it was such a daunting task that it took a proper kick up my arse to get me started. Once I got started, though, I couldn’t stop, which is my current problem. He’s being published soon, and I can’t keep tinkering about with him, as has been my habit for the last, oh, nine years. He’s a habit I have to break, and it honestly hurts.

My comfort is that he’s too good a character for me to just leave hanging, and I already have more adventures for him up my sleeve. But that first adventure? It belongs to my readers now, not me.

AB: James Munkers: Super Freak will be released in April. To find out more about the book, visit its website. You can also check out Lindsey’s blog and Facebook page. And James Munkers is so talkative that he just had to have his very own Facebook page, too.

Stay tuned:  James Munkers: Super Freak will be released in April 2014.

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