We’re interviewing all our authors in the run-up to the Bradford on Avon Mini Book Festival on 15/16 July.
Freshford author, Maudie Smith will be dealing with an awful lot of tights this year as her event is based around her book for new readers, All the King’s Tights.
Maudie’s other recent book, The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch was shortlisted for this year’s James Reckitt Book Award. Hull Libraries asked Maudie all about it:
Teleporting cakes are just one of many crazy things in your book, where do you get your ideas from?!
Tee hee, yes! Initial ideas crop up all over the place. My stories have been sparked by photographs of people I’ve never met, memories from my own childhood, a seashell, other writers’ books, documentaries on television, snippets from the newspaper, even random things I overhear people say on the bus. For example I’m working on a picture book idea at the moment inspired by someone I heard say, “I only ever eat mangoes in the bath!” I found that funny and thought there might be a story in it, too. It might not go anywhere, but it might – I’ll let you know!
What do you think we can learn from fairytales as we grow up?
Fairy tales, eh? Where would we be without them? The brilliant scientist, Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” They’re not just entertaining and exciting. They help us make sense of the world and give us a moral compass, helping us to see the difference between good and evil. When we read about Hansel and Gretel, we identify with and root for them, not for the wicked witch. Although it happens quite subconsciously, when we read fairy tales we learn how to be forces for good in our own lives.
Fairy tales often have frightening things in them – they don’t even always end happily – but if we see heroes battling villains, good battling evil, it can help us feel less anxious about the scary, unknown things in real life. Is there a more reassuring way of learning about the world outside than being tucked up in bed, with someone you love reading you a cracking story? I can’t think of one.
You began your career as an actress, what did you like best about it?
I worked in the theatre mainly, and I loved being part of a group hurrying towards the deadline of an opening night – there was a sort of war-time spirit to it, without having to have an actual war. It’s really the one thing I miss as a writer. Writing deadlines involve locking yourself away in solitary confinement, but the results can be equally satisfying, and I suppose longer lasting.
Do you prefer acting as a new character or writing about one?
Good question! They’re actually quite similar things. When I was acting I often worked on devised plays, which means I was creating characters from scratch, just like in writing. I’d need to find out how a character talks, how they move, even how they think. I used to like being put in the ‘hot seat’ as an actor, and have the rest of the company fire lots of questions at me, which I’d have to answer in character. It put me on the spot in the way working alone doesn’t always – I have to be a lot more disciplined about it. The big advantage about writing a character, such as my young alien, Opal Moonbaby, is that, unlike with a play, I have the opportunity to write more than just one story about her. I like having that option to keep developing a character I’ve become particularly attached to.
Max doesn’t understand why his dad married someone so different from what his mum had been like – what do you think helps him accept the change most?
Max has found things very difficult without his mum. Since she died, he’s been trying to keep everything in his life as still as possible because he’s scared of anything else bad happening. So Dad going ahead and marrying Ilona feels like a betrayal. When Max is sent on the quest to bring back the happy endings to the Land of Ever After, he doesn’t realise it but he’s also on a personal quest. His encounters with the fairy tale characters, particularly Loth who is stuck alone in the dwarves’ house with nothing but his cherished memories of Snow White, help Max understand who he is and who he wants to be. They make him feel stronger in himself, so he can let change, new experiences and new people into his life – and some happiness too.
Thanks Hull Libraries, and Maudie, for the interview. And we look forward to getting tangled in All the King’s Tights!