A month or so ago a colleague at Little London Magazine asked if on the off chance I was free I could conduct an interview for the magazine, of course I was free but who would on earth would I be interviewing?
A few weeks later it transpired I was being sent to meet two of the most successful names in Children's literature today, non-other than the deliciously debonair Eoin Colfer and the delightfully charming Oliver Jeffers.
With the luck of the Irish.. (well I have an Irish surname at least) I made my way to The Soho Hotel, all be it a quivering wreck of nerves, to interview to them about their first ever picture book collaboration 'Imaginary Fred'
Time was tight but I just managed to sneak in a few exclusive questions for the Book Sniffer blog.
NB: Suffice to say there was a lot of the interview which cannot and will not ever be published but let me tell you my sides were splitting and my cheeks were aching with laughter once my 30 golden minutes were up.
What’s that strangest or funniest question you’ve been asked by a child during a school event?
Oliver: "Sometimes you get asked allsorts. One time I was asked “What does Batman do?” and I got a letter once, which I still have, saying “Dear Oliver Jeffers, What is your name?”
Eoin: "I got some fan mail and it was in a pink envelope with pretty pony stamps, all mail in the states gets checked but they must have seen it and thought it looks fine and it was from a guy on death row and he had a photograph of himself covered in God bless America with two machetes and it said “ I love your books” haha, but it was lovely and it was the sweetest letter, he obviously put it in that envelopes because he knew it would get through. He had a weird nickname which I can’t remember...
BS: Like “Baby” or something?
Eoin: No I think it was “Hatchet”, there was no irony in there at all hahahaa.
You mentioned that Imaginary Fred had a different ending prior to starting work with Oliver. Which changes did you make?
Oliver: Originally the four of them stayed together and it seemed more natural as to how a group of friends are for them to basically split off so it wasn’t the foursome, the person that Fred had been dreaming of at the start was actually not Sam even though for the majority of the book it’s sets it up that it was Sam it was actually this other character that sets him up towards the end and that is actually how friendships can happen and how people partner up throughout life is introduction through friends and we hinted at that and it felt like that’s the way it should go rather than just the four of them being the statue. Lets bring it back to the beginning and bookend it right.
Eoin: It felt right and at the time I thought that changing the ending is a big thing but as soon as I read it I thought yeah that makes sense.
Oliver: I was nervous about saying that.
In Imaginary Fred Sam and Sammi create their own comics, Eoin you've spoken about your thoughts on writing comics yourself. How do you think we can make people more engaged with the graphic novel format and what’s the potential there?
Oliver: Truly good content. It’s as simple as that.
Eoin: Yes it’s always content. I think the movie world has helped a little bit but there’s always been a huge underground for graphic novels and there’s a really solid core of people who read them. There was a bit of snobbery about them about 15-20 years ago and in some cases teachers wouldn’t even let kids read comic books but now I think that’s changed a little bit and I think the same thing is true of fantasy literature until Game of Thrones came along and I think it’s more mainstream now and people like Frank Miller have really helped do that with comic books.
Oliver: Also away from the superhero/science fiction aspect people like Art Spiegelman who’s been around for a long time, and it’s come back with a bit of a resurgence, for example Persepolis, things like that which is real life not science fiction. I wasn’t really crazy about graphic novels growing up interestingly. You’d think that I was with how visual I am but I’ve never been that interested in making one but it’s not the way that I think. I don’t think about illustrating every moment of a sequence. I trying to breakdown lot of complicated things into ojust one very simple image rather than taking it and breaking it apart into fifty.
Eoin: That’s something I learnt from you actually. You don’t have to say so much. You don’t’ have to lead up to everything and then follow it.
Oliver: It’s the power of suggestion really. That’s just my particular skill set and other people really do dominate that area where every single moment is shown.
I think with graphic novels I’m surprised that they ever get published because they are so inefficient. It takes so many people so long and you can only charge so much so unless it’s a mega seller it's not really cost effective.
Oliver How do you feel the illustration world is represented by the visual arts world? Do they compliment each other? and how do you divide your time?
Oliver: It’s becoming more so that it accepts illustration although illustration is still a dirty word and I was actually talking about this with my gallery recently and we were having a laugh about it . They are never called illustrations in the fine art world whether it’s on paper or ink drawing or whatever but it’s becoming okay because picture books are more popular and, dare I say it, more fashionable it’s more socially acceptable to be making picture books and be in the fine art world. Ten years ago that was not the case.
I divide my time with discipline and dedication and an exhausting schedule really. It’s not quite as formulaic as 50/50 or a week on a week off. Some years it’s more picture books than fine art and some years it’s the other way round. It’s just a matter of what projects I have on the go and being pretty strict with myself around deadlines and if there aren’t any then I make self created deadlines.
WITH HUGE THANKS TO Vicki from Harper Collins and of course Oliver and Eoin.
By Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers
Published by HarperCollins
A beautifully observed story about an imaginary friend told with great humour and sensitivity. Beguiling Illustrations by the inimitable talent that is Oliver Jeffers make this a highly desirable future classic.
Check out the next issues of Little London and WRD magazines mid November for my full interviews and also a review of their FANTASTIC book.
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