I’m very pleased today to be hosting a guest interview with Pamela Butchart, writer of Baby Aliens Got My Teacher, as part of the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour. Over to Pamela.
What inspired you to write Baby Aliens Got My Teacher?
I had quite a wild imagination when I was at primary school (and still do!). I’ve always enjoyed looking at something quite ordinary and coming up with a completely different (and much more exciting) explanation for what’s going on. For example, when you see lots of crows sitting on the roof of just one house, and you wonder, ‘Why that house?’ Is it because the heating is on full-blast and the roof is nice and toasty?’
It’s because the neighbourhood crows are having their AGM to discuss neighbourhood issues, such as which garden has the wormiest worms, which is their favourite postman and why, and just WHAT to do about that pesky child who sometimes eats THEIR bread off the grass!
I was also very much inspired by my own primary school experiences. My friends and I used to make up secret clubs, have code names, scare each other with over-the-top stories and get into LOTS of trouble. There was always something going on, and it was usually all very dramatic. It was brilliant!
Who is your favourite character in the book?
It has to be Maisie – she’s just so funny!
When I first started writing ‘Baby Aliens Got My Teacher’ there were only 3 main characters until I started writing the scene when Izzy is meditating and Maisie Millar faints on her leg. I hadn’t planned that someone would faint on Izzy’s leg, Maisie’s character just kind of popped into my head, fully-formed. I even knew her name straight away. It was weird.
Is Miss Jones like any of your teachers?
I’m too scared to say. I mean, what if the REAL Miss Jones reads this?!
In Baby Aliens Got My Teacher Izzy finds her Crisp Twin. Have you ever found your crisp twin, or seen a policeman who looked a bit like the moon?
Alas, I have yet to find my Crisp Twin. But if I were a crisp, I feel I would be a Salt & Vinegar Quaver.
I have also never seen a policeman who looked a bit like the moon. But I did see someone in Tesco who looked a LOT like the moon (in a good way). I like the moon.
Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
My husband, Andy – He was the one who encouraged me to start writing my own books by giving me a ‘How to Write for Children’ book for my birthday (from the cats). Thanks, Andy (and Bear & Carlos – my cats).
My Mum and Gran – My Gran for telling me lots of stories, buying me a book-a-week, and creating the awesome collaborative ‘Over to You’ story telling game! And my Mum for taking me to the library, buying me even MORE books, and for giving me such a wonderful childhood (filled with PLENTY of writing material!).
Judith Kerr – If it wasn’t for Judith Kerr’s MOG books and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, I don’t think I’d be writing today. It was my love of Mog that made me want to become a writer. Judith Kerr is my all-time favourite author/ illustrator. It was a dream come true for me when I got the chance to meet with her recently and have a chat.
How did you get your big break?
I entered the 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference Competition and won 1stquite shocked when I won because I’d gone to the conference to learn more about writing, and really didn’t expect to win. I hadn’t been this shocked to win something since I won a beanbag chair at assembly in Primary 5. In fact, both experiences were quite similar now that I think about it. My name was called and I sat there in shock for what seemed like eternity thinking, “No. They’ve made a mistake. It can’t be me. Can it? CAN IT?!!” before finally getting up and walking the long walk to the stage (I’m one of those ‘bad kids’ who always sits at the very back) while grinning like a maniac.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I love writing in the library, surrounded by books. I also like writing at home, surrounded by books, toys (and cats).
I’ve written ALL of my books on the same mini laptop, and I’m REALLY hoping that it will last forever.
Briefly describe your typical working day.
Pet cats until they eventually release me and let me bathe.
Ponder morality, epistemology and the very nature of existence for 8 hours. (It’s ok, I’m a secondary school philosophy teacher. Not just a Big Thinker.)
Go to the library and write about parping dinosaurs and baby aliens.
Apologise to cats profusely for daring to be gone for so long.
Apologise to husband for being gone for so long (he is always much less upset than the cats, so no need for profuse apology. Regular is fine.)
Have you ever wanted to do anything other than write?
Yes. When I was little I wanted to be dinosaur. Then I wanted to be someone who worked with dinosaur fossils, and microscopes (and possibly metal detectors). Then I wanted to write stories. Then I wanted to be a Vet. Then I wanted to work for the FBI in America. Then I wanted to be a Vet again. Then I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. Then I wanted to be a philosopher (someone who thinks a lot about Big Questions). Then I became a philosophy teacher. Then I wanted to be a dinosaur again.
And now I’m a teacher AND I write stories. But I am not (yet) a dinosaur.
What’s your favourite funny book and why?
Oh NO! This question is also too difficult! I have more than 20 favourite funny books!
What if I pick one of them and then the other books feel left out? Can I have 2 favourites?
PLEEEEEEEESE! Yes? Great.
3 it is then:
1. ‘The Great Dog Bottom Swap’ by Peter Bentley and Mei Matsuoka. This is one of the funniest picture books I’ve ever read. You just HAVE to read it. (Spoiler Alert – You’ll find out the REAL reason dogs sniff each other’s bottoms in the park!)
2. ‘The Great Hamster Massacre’ by Katie Davies. I love this book.
3. ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’ by Sue Townsend.
4. ‘Pants are Everything’ by Mike Lowry.
5. ‘Mr Gum’ by Andy Stanton.
6. ALL of Louise Rennison’s books.
(Yes. I cheated.)
Any advice for budding authors?
It may sound obvious (and maybe even a bit cheesy) but I believe that you should write for yourself. I often read this, but I didn’t fully understand what it meant until I burst out laughing while writing Baby Aliens Got My Teacher. Basically, if you find what you’re writing funny, exciting, or scary, I think that’s a good sign. It means you’re enjoying it! And if you enjoy it, then there’s a good chance others will too.
Before I had cats, I used to walk around my house with a rat on each shoulder. These were not random rats (hmm, ‘Random Rats’, possible book title?). They were my pet rats, Jeemie and Jerry, and they were probably the best rats that ever lived.
Baby Aliens Got My Teacher!” has been shortlisted in the younger readers category of the 2015 Red House Children’s Book Award. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.
You can find the other blogs in the tour here:
FCBG Blog @FCBGNews (shortlist announcement and blog tour schedule on 27th October)
Being a Mummy @zooarchaeologis
Magpie That @Magpie_That
Mummy Mishaps @JennyPaulin
My Book Corner @mybookcorner
Wondrous Reads @WondrousReads
Project UKYA @ProjectUKYA
Teen Librarian @mattlibrarian
So Many Books So Little Time @sophie_waters