Q&A with Danny and the Dream Dog author Fiona Barker


Our lucky reviewer Edie May (age 11) won the chance to ask Danny and the Dream Dog author, Fiona Barker, 10 questions. Here are Fiona's answers! And you can read all of Edie May's reviews here.

Q&A with Danny and the Dream Dog author Fiona Barker

1. What/who influenced this book?

My daughter has been asking for a dog since she started talking. She has tons of dog reference books  and an impressive knowledge of breeds! But it hasn’t been possible for us to actually have a dog ourselves even though we love them. Then I heard about the charity The Cinnamon Trust which recruits volunteers to help people who have a pet but are struggling to look after it because of illness or frailty. The charity really brings people together and helps much-loved pets to stay with their owners. The two ideas of really wanting a dog and the charity came together in this book.

2. When did you start writing?

I’ve always loved picture books but only seriously considered writing them after my daughter was born 13 years ago.

Q&A with Danny and the Dream Dog author Fiona Barker
Danny and the Dream Dog illustration Work in Progress
Danny and the Dream Dog illustration Work Finished spread

3. What made you want to write for younger children?

I believe that picture books are for life, not just for young children. So, the writing for children bit came about as a by-product of wanting to write picture books. Picture books are wonderful because of the way that the words and pictures work together to tell the story. But they are also special because children first meet them at a time when they are laying down so many memories and learning so much. They plant a seed that lasts a lifetime. I feel honoured (and a bit scared sometimes) that I might be playing a part in doing that.   

4. Are you yourself a dog person?

I love dogs. All the research suggests that having a dog makes you happier and healthier and they definitely bring people together. But I love cats too. And rats (we have two of those; Darwin and Attenborough).

5. When you were at school, did you have a passion for writing?

I loved writing at school, especially the descriptive essays we had to write in English. And poems. When I was 11, my teacher Mrs Collins, wrote ‘I wish I could write like this’ on my homework. I was incredibly proud. It’s been downhill since then!

6. Do you know any dogs like Max?

I’m sure we all know a cheeky little dog like Max. Here are some I met when I was researching the book and trying to get a feel for his character. Howard Gray, the illustrator, has done a brilliant job of bringing him to life! 

Q&A with Danny and the Dream Dog author Fiona Barker
Photos of real dogs

7. Do your plot ideas come from research, or do you wait for inspiration?

Sometimes I’ll be given a brief to write to. I quite like the challenge of doing that. It’s like doing school English homework (yes, I know I’m weird). Other stories might come from a picture. At the moment I’m trying to come up with a story idea every day for a month based on pictures drawn by an amazing illustrator, John Shelley. Or I might see something interesting on the news or social media. And other times I will have a completely random idea out of the blue, usually in the middle of the night. I always have a notebook with me just in case!

8. Do you see yourself as any of your characters?

None of my characters are based on me. I’m very boring. But it’s fun to imagine yourself as other people or in other situations and writing gives you the chance to do that.

9. A favourite author of mine makes herself write 1000 words a day - otherwise there is a consequence; do you do anything along those lines?

Wow! That’s good discipline! I’m not that strict with myself. And 1000 words would be two picture books! Picture book writers tend to spend a whole day worrying about whether to change or delete a single word. When you have only 300-400 words to tell a story, every word counts!

10. Are your characters derived from real people, or are they conjured from your imagination?

A combination of both really. They’re new imagined characters but they might have little characteristics ‘borrowed’ from people I know. Hopefully nobody would recognise themselves though! And sometimes working with an illustrator will help you develop a character. This definitely happened with Mrs Owen in this book. Howards drawings have added so much to her character. You just know that someone who wears those slippers is going to be a lovely person with a kind heart who likes a bit of fun

Q&A with Danny and the Dream Dog author Fiona Barker
Book pages Placeholder Book

Danny and the Dream Dog

Danny and the Dream Dog is written by Fiona Barker and illustrated by Howard Gray.

Danny REALLY wants a dog.

He wants a dog so much that he DREAMS about them.

And a new neighbour and their four-legged friend move into the house next door, Danny's dream comes true - almost. Find out whether this new neighbour can help Danny achieve his dream and more in this story about finding friendship in unexpected places.

Danny and the Dream Dog is a book about finding friendship in unexpected places. Danny dreams about having a dog but, with Mum at work and Danny at school, Mum says they can't have one. One day, when a new neighbour moves next door, Mum volunteers Danny to take the neighbour's dog for a walk every day after school.

Danny dreams about the dog and can't wait to meet him. However, this pup isn't exactly what Danny had in mind.

The dog's name is Max and he certainly isn't the kind of dog Danny has been dreaming about. Max is an older dog, a little bit scruffy and a little bit smelly too. He likes to chase rabbits and gets himself into all sorts of trouble. However, Danny soon realises that whilst Max might not be his DREAM DOG he's definitely his best friend.


First published


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