Author of Fast Food and No Play Make Jack A Fat Boy
Interviewed October 2005
- Your website is fantastic & so much fun. Is it your creation?
- I am very involved in the generating ideas and content for the website, but all the graphic and technical work is done by a website designer called Rohan Goffin. The idea is to make it colourful and fun, but at the same time clear and easy to use. I love working on it - although the medium is different, it's very similar to the magazine that I used to write, publish and sell to kids at my school when I was in Year 7.
- How did your parents cope with you?
- I think they spent a lot of time scratching their heads and wondering if there'd been a mix up at the hospital.
Rubber dog poo, rubber vomit, rubber spiders…“
- Do you still play practical jokes - like what?
- Rubber dog poo, rubber vomit, rubber spiders, writing books with titles like 'The Day My Bum Went Psycho' … that sort of thing.
- Do you still play rock music? Can you sing?
- I was in a band for a few years-I wrote the lyrics and became the front man by default. I discovered I was good at entertaining but I couldn't sing…well, not in the traditional sense of the word. Eventually I gave up trying to be musical and began concentrating on writing. I no longer perform, but I listen to — and draw a huge amount of inspiration from — alternative and experimental music.
- What was the worst job you ever had?
- Ummm…let me think…oh yes! I don't think I can go past cleaning up the mess off the back seat of my taxi at 2.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning after yet another drunk passenger had vomited.
- Most embarrassing moment when being a stand-up comedian?
- After my second disastrous attempt at stand-up comedy I discovered a fortnight later that a journalist had been in the audience researching an article on people trying out to be stand-up comedians. He started his article with a description of my disastrous attempt as an example of how hard it is for beginning stand-up comedians to learn how to be funny. But it was kind of good in a way. It freed me up because all my worst fears came true:
- Why were you so determined to be an author?
- That's a good question. I didn't really get serious about it
until I was in my late twenties. I guess at that time it became
obvious to me that I'd been writing in some form or other for most
of my life and I began to entertain the fantasy that I could write
for a living. Although I had no clear idea about what I would write
or how this would be possible I started reading books, taking writing
courses and committing to daily writing practice. I collected fifty
of my writing practice pieces and self-published them as a book
called 'Freaking Out'. It was as rough as guts, but it got a great
response and I was encouraged to keep going. Gradually I discovered
that my strength-and passion-was for humorous writing and I began
to concentrate all my efforts on this genre.
You can’t let Year 9s phase you
or you’re gone
- What's so difficult about Year 9s on a Friday afternoon?
- They're tired, looking forward to the weekend, and at an age
where to be seen demonstrably enjoying yourself or expressing any
emotion other than detached boredom is not particularly cool. You
can't let them phase you or you're gone.
- Would you recommend nepotism for would-be authors e.g. marrying
your editor …
- Only if you are truly, madly and deeply in love…and then
only if they feel the same way.
We are working on an illustrated guide
to prehistoric bumosaurs
- Dare we ask what's coming next after Bumageddon - after reading
how the Day My Bum Went Psycho came about we're a bit worried what
your answer may be. Are you planning on squelching out of the
- Terry and I are working on an illustrated set of nonsense-story-poems
called FROG ON A LOG IN A BOG. But it's the sort of bog that frogs
live in rather than the sort of bog that you'd find in the Bum
trilogy. The book is much closer in style and content to Seuss
than sewers. The Bum trilogy is now definitely finished, although
we are working on an illustrated guide to prehistoric bumosaurs
called 'What Bumosaur is that?' And then there will be a new Just
book called JUST SHOCKING!
- Did you have any idea what sort of response The Bad Book was
going to generate?
- No, I thought calling it ‘The Bad Book’ was a pretty
clear indication that it was tongue-in-cheek and that people would
take it in that spirit. I’ve been amazed to realise how quickly
some people forget the brutal world of nursery rhymes, fairy tales
and schoolyard chants. Besides, Terry’s been exercising this
sort of humour in the margins of the JUST books for many years
- Considering the content of some children’s computer games,
tv programmes, advertisements and movies, with various forms of
visual violence being generally accepted with very little opposition,
we're just wondering what your thoughts are on some of the outrage
expressed about The Bad Book. Why do you think it provoked such
strong opposition from some quarters when other forms of children's
- This question is actually quite complex and I’ve put a
number of longer articles dealing with it on the Resource section
of my website, but fundamentally I think the problem is that some
people absolutely do not understand how absurd humour or black
humour works - and the Bad book is a combination of both styles.
They just don’t understand the genre and as a result end
up taking it very literally and getting very upset.
I am greatly amused by hostile responses — I pin the most vitriolic on my wall
- Are you particularly concerned with what the adult critics say? Was your first review really a bad one?
- I listen carefully to all responses to my writing to check that what I think I’m trying to say is what is being received. But I don’t take any of it — the good, the bad or the indifferent — very seriously. It’s often more about the person responding than about anything I’ve written. And often it’s more about what they think I’ve written or what they wish I’d written…so I take all responses with a large grain of salt. Adult critics are usually telling you a lot more about themselves than you or your books. The book just triggers a reaction. I am greatly amused by hostile responses — I pin the most vitriolic on my wall — but I don't take them personally. Scratch the surface and you'll usually find a frustrated creative writer.
- Have you had any feedback about the Bumageddon billboard above Moray Street?
- Lots of my friends have rung to tell me they’ve seen it. Lots of my friends have told me they’re sick of it!
- Have we created a generation of sedentary children & teens? Do you think this will ever change and Cowboys and Indians will come back into fashion one day (sorry, Prairie Peoples and Native American Citizens …)
- We’ve definitely created a culture in which movement has become optional.
- Do you like computer games?
- No, not really. I'd rather be reading, writing or listening to music.
- Did you watch much telly as a child? Do you now?
- I would have watched 1-2 hours a day, usually after school. This was in the 70's and the programs consisted pretty much of the smart inventive comedies of the golden era of TV comedy: e.g. The Addams Family, Get Smart, Gilligan's Island, The Three Stooges, Lost in Space. Very inspirational!
- Worst advice ever given to you
- “Don’t give up your teaching job — it’s impossible to make a living from writing.” Needless to say I didn’t take it.