Laura Dockrill has been a crush of mine for quite a few years now. She writes and performs with such an honest, imaginative voice – she’s just a joy. When I was asked if I fancied interviewing her ahead of her appearance this month at the Cheltenham Literature Festival I had a quick chat with the cats about it and they agreed that we definitely should. (I *may* have been spending too much time at home on my own lately.)
Hi Laura, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions! I’ve followed (stalked) you on Twitter for ages, and so I’m thrilled to get to ask you some questions. [Me playing it cool.] Let’s start with Angry Cookie. This book is something slightly different for you in that it’s a picture book aimed at younger children – where did the inspiration come from and how was it different from writing for older readers?
I wanted to show anger in a different light and portray it as friendship, the importance of asking our friends if they are ok even if they push us away, even if it means we keep coming back. That is the importance of the reader, to keep coming back, to not give up on the cookie. And the cookie- I wanted to choose a traditionally stereotypically ridiculously sweet treat that could have all these anger issues to demonstrate that it can happen to absolutely everybody. I wanted to write something for little ones as I always visit them at school and never ever have anything for them to read so it was about time. And I’ve always wanted to work with Walker so it was a dream come true!
Can you tell me a bit about how your stories take shape? Do you have a whole story in your mind before you begin? How much time goes into the planning stage before you begin writing?
I really enjoy just beginning and seeing where the words take you, I really value the editorial experience and working back and forth with somebody is key for me, I try not to over-plan too much because it can spoil some of the fun!
Has becoming a parent changed the way you write?
I don’t think so, although it has made me look back at some of my other books and think WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING, NO KID WOULD LIKE THAT! And it’s showed me simplicity is key. My baby likes the most basic of tales.
You were asked in an interview about advice you would give to writers and you said to ‘write how you talk.’ I absolutely love this, as it’s how I write my blog and it’s how I’ve just gone about writing a book over the summer. I wonder how this impacts your writing process – does it mean you tend not to make too many changes from a first draft? Do you worry about ‘overworking’ it and losing that authentic voice, or is not losing that voice all part of the skill?
YES! You have to write how you talk, can’t wait to read your book by the way – well done you! I think there is a risk of ironing out the creases too much so the piece and lose it’s roughness, it’s spirit and magic. There is a lot to be said for bashing out an idea and sharing that work right away- it feels like there is a pulse to the work which can be lost if you fuss over it too much. I’ll never forget when I was doing an art exam once, we had to pastel this still life of fruit and a vase and stuff and mine was pretty decent, although we had an hour and half for the exam and I’d finished in like half an hour. So- because I had the extra time and could see everybody else busily scribbling away I decided to colour the whole background in black and it looked TERRIBLE! And I realised then that some stuff is meant to be iron hot flash in the pan and left raw and untouched- sometimes spending too long on something can jeopardise its beauty.
Quite a few years ago now I came and saw you read an extract from one of your books – Darcy Burdock – and you had such an amazing energy on the stage. Do you enjoy the performance aspect or do you prefer writing at home in your pyjamas?
Aww, thanks! I like a mixture of the two. Writing is a very isolated lonely existence where you are working towards piece of material that won’t see the light of day for a couple of years so it’s good to refresh your voice and meet your audience, get some instant reactions and feedback and if you write for kids it makes you a better writer to spend some time with some actual children.
If you could be a character from any book, just for a day, who would you most like to be?
Tracy beaker. She is the coolest kid ever.
What cool new projects do you have coming up?
I’m doing another picture book with Walker and a teen y/a with hot key which I am really excited about. Other than that I am making my baby into a person – WHICH IS A FULL TIME PROJECT!