Thursday, 16 February 2012

Francesca Simon - behind the book

The South Bank centre has been holding the Imagine festival over half term and has a vast array of events on offer including some talks from children's authors. I took my eleven year old son along to see Francesca Simon on Tuesday 14th February and she gave a very interesting account of her writing career and her new book "The Sleeping Army".

Francesca, a native American, has written over fifty books but is perhaps most famous for her series about Horrid Henry of which she has written twenty one! Horrid Henry has become a massive franchise which includes a cartoon series and a film. Francesca says her main character is based on herself more then anyone, as the oldest of four children she recalls very strongly the feelings of being young and having to cope with younger siblings nad has used them to marvellous effect in her stories.
She began writing after her son was born (He's now in his twenties)and despite her first book receiving the worst rejection letter ever (apparently there were several paragraphs detailing how awful her work was!) she carried on writing regardless and eventually became published. An excellent demonstration of how perserverance can pay off!

Ms Simon's new book is a departure from old as it is written for an older audience and has a girl as the main protagonist. She was inspired she said by the Lewis Chessmen, a set of very old chess figures dug up on a beach in Scotland and shrouded in mystery. They're on show at the British Museum and the author wondered why they looked so miserable and began thinking of possible reasons. She picked a few of the pieces, the king and queen who became a squabbling brother and sister, an eight legged horse and a berserker. These characters are woken when our heroine Freya blows a horn in the museum and what follows is a huge adventure as she is dragged to Asgard and off on an adventure.

It was clear how much research, time and effort the author had put into this story and how excited she was about her departure from Horrid Henry. Never fear Horrid Henry fans though because Ms Simon has not forsaken Henry and a new book - "Horrid Henry and the monster movie " will be out soon.

I found Francesca Simon to be an excellent speaker, very articulate and engaging. I was impressed at her composure while on stage in front of nearly a hundred children and their parents.

Her advice for would be authors was "to read widely, keep an ideas notebook with them as ideas are everywhere and most importantly to finish what they start."

I was also lucky enough to see the author of the "How to train your dragon" series, Cressida Cowell and I'll be blogging about that soon.

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