reader Q&A with Mitch johnson
1. Were you inspired by Climate change to write Spark?
Absolutely. I wanted to write an adventure in which all of the dangers and obstacles were caused – directly or indirectly – by climate change. Although Spark is set at an undisclosed point in the future in a world that is hot and stormy, I’ve tried to make it feel medieval, as I imagine that climate collapse would reverse much of the progress we have made.
2. How do you create your characters, are they based on people you know, if so who is Ash?
I don’t tend to base my characters on real people, although I do sometimes combine specific traits and idiosyncrasies to create a kind of hybrid. Ash is the result of me trying to imagine what it would be like to live in such a cruel and inhospitable world: he is angry and confused, but most of all I think he is afraid.
3. Do book ideas pop into your head when you are eating breakfast?
Not really, although I do tend to write better early in the morning. What is more common is that ideas pop into my head as I’m falling asleep at night. The challenge is in dragging yourself up from semi-consciousness to scribble them down. If I don’t, I almost always forget them!
4. In Spark the world is super hot, what do you do to stay cool?
I’m not a big fan of hot weather (I get grumpy), but I drink a lot of water and this does tend to help.
5. What have you done to help climate change?
I try to use the car as little as possible: I walk, I cycle, and on really grim days I use public transport. I also don’t eat meat and haven’t done for the last ten years; going veggie or vegan is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
6. What is your favourite children's book ever? (apart from your own!)
My favourite book as a boy was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s a bizarre adventure through the Kingdom of Wisdom – a place where words and numbers come to life – and it features loads of eccentric characters and clever little details and mind-bending concepts, all of which I just loved. More recently I read Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, which is a rich and vivid story set in the Amazon, and it instantly became one of my all-time favourites.
7. If you could have told something to yourself when you were a child what would it have been?
Don’t worry about being weird. Weird will be your rocket fuel.
8. What's your favourite thing to do when you are not writing books?
9. All of your books have been quite different, what will your next book be about?
I’m hoping to write about Amazonian deforestation and mass extinction in my next book, and I’d like it to feature a very rare frog that secretes an extraordinarily powerful toxin...
10. If you had a Spark, what changes would you make to the world?
I think if I could change one thing, I would make kindness a higher priority for everyone. I think that would solve most of our problems.