reader q&A with charlie higson
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Family holidays – when I was a kid and with my own kids later on. All the funny, awful, and memorable things that happened. Sometimes my boys would bring friends on holiday with them - these boys would be away from their own families and thrown into this strange new world, and I used to wonder what we all looked to them. So this book is the world as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, Stan.
2. Have you ever eaten any strange food just like Stan did in the book ?
Just like Stan, I was a very fussy eater when I was a boy, but something happened as I got older, and I realised it was daft to be squeamish about food. I flipped and became the opposite. I thought I'd be as experimental as I could and eat anything I was offered. Since then I’ve eaten squid, snails, crabs, sea urchins, crickets, ants, mice, ostrich, kangaroo, eels, snakes, stinging nettles, dandelion leaves… I’ve never quiet gone as far as I'm a Celebrity, but I've eaten some pretty weird stuff.
3. Do you think you are more like Stan or Felix?
Oh, I'm much more like Stan than Felix. Felix is quite a confident, outgoing boy who doesn't think too deeply about anything or care much about anyone else. I was a shy, self-conscious boy and I'm still quite shy. Like Stan, I used to observe closely what went on around me and maybe overthink things.
4. How many books have you published?
People are always asking me this and so I’ve finally added it up. I think I've published 25 in all. But I have many more books that have never been published and never will be. 25 might seem a lot, but some writers, like Malorie Blackman and Jaqueline Wilson, have written over 100.
5. Are you going to write more books about Stan and his adventures? (I really hope you do!)
I'm glad you like the book and would like to read more about Stan. If the book is really popular and everyone likes Stan as much as you do and want to find out what happens to him next, then I will definitely write some more. I wasn't intending to write a series but there are obviously lots of other ‘worst things’ that can happen to Stan – Worst. Christmas. Ever… Worst. School Trip. Ever… Worst. Wedding. Ever… etc.
6. How did you keep yourself busy during lockdown?
Well, I'm a writer, and I was sort of living in lockdown before everyone else. I spend my days shut away in my office at home thinking up stories, so my work wasn't really affected by lockdown, but as I wasn't allowed to go out in the evenings and weekends, I did do some other stuff. I made a little animated film. I helped my son make a couple of music videos. I really got involved with gardening and I love painting toy soldiers…
7. Have you ever been to Italy?
We have a house in Italy. It's similar to the one in the book though not exactly the same and it was all my trips out there with the family that inspired me to write the book. Italy’s a lovely place to go on holiday - the people are so friendly; the food and the wine are delicious and the weather is perfect.
8. What was your worst holiday ever?
I've been lucky enough not to have been on any really awful holidays, so I couldn't say which was ‘the worst one ever’. Bad things have happened – we’ve had our villa broken into, luggage has got lost, I’ve got the runs, but they haven't completely ruined any of the holidays. I stored up all the awful things and used them in this book. That's the great thing about being a writer, anything terrible happens to you, or your friends, you just think “Ha-ha, that's good material. I can use that in a book. Tell me more…”
9. What was your favourite subject In school?
I really liked art and English. Probably most of all I liked art. I really do love creating things and when you're working on a painting or a drawing, you're using a different part of your brain. I learned so much making art, how to look at the world, how to think about things…
10. Can you give me any writing tips?
OK here are my top five writing tips:
1. Write the sort of story you'd like to read. Don't write it for some imaginary reader or for a parent or a teacher.
2. Once you've written your story, rewrite it. You can only make it better.
3. It really helps to know how your story is going to end. Lots of people have really fun, funny or exciting ways to start a story and then don't really know where to go with it, but if you've got a really great ending, it's like having a destination on a journey. You can take any route you like to get there but you always know where you're going.
4. When you finish your story, read it out loud to a friend, a family member or even just to yourself. It's the best way to get a sense of what's working well in your writing.
5. Write as much as you can. It’s the best way to learn. Keep at it.