Martin Howard has written a plethora of books – fiction, non-fiction, for both children and adults – under his own and made-up names. Intriguing!
Delighted that Martin Howard has popped into My Book Corner today to answer our infamous questions…
Tell us about you in 25 words or less.
I’m the sort of person who loses their wallet and finds it two weeks later under the peas in the freezer.
The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet, your latest middle grade novel with illustrations from Chris Mould, has just been released. How did it come to be?
That’s a very long story, stretching back into the distant mists of time itself. Like Alfie in the book, I’ve always liked reading fantasy and love exploring the maps in fantasy books. About fifteen years ago I thought that a travel guide to fantastic lands would be really cool, with maps and restaurant reviews and everything else you’d expect to find in a guidebook. I couldn’t use any other writer’s world though and the only place I could make it work was fairyland, which didn’t really suit me as a writer. So I scrapped it. The idea squatted at the back of my mind for more than ten years until I came up with an intergalactic map-making society called the Unusual Cartography Club. Having the main character start writing a travel guide during his adventures seemed to fit perfectly, and so – after fifteen years – I finally got to use my original idea!
Where is your favourite place to write?
Oh no, embarrassing question alert! Slightly red-faced, I have to confess that my favourite place to write is in bed. One of the great things about being a writer is that you can do it anywhere, and I have three children and a dog so the bedroom is the quietest place in the house, plus it’s warm and comfy.
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
ALL the books. I want to read EVERYTHING. Seriously, I usually have at least three books on the go at any one time and my TBR list is endless. For other MG books, I have Lisa Thompson’s The Day I was Erased lined up, and Make Me Awesome by Ben Davis. Julie Pike’s The Last Spell Breather isn’t out until later in the year but I met her recently and she’s amazing so I’m looking forward to that. I also spotted a book called The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum on another blog recently. It has a very intriguing premise, so I’ll be getting my mitts on that when it comes out.
What’s your worst habit?
My wife would say talking in my sleep (a habit I’ve given to the Professor in The Cosmic Atlas). I do it all the time. Mostly it’s gibberish but last year I woke her up saying “Emma, Emma … I’m inside a tomato.” A while back I woke her up by moaning “hermmmumph, hermumph” constantly for five minutes. Then I sat bolt upright in bed, punched the air and shouted, “Thank you very much. You’ve been a lovely audience. Goodnight!”
The strangest question you’ve even been asked?
One of the other great things about being a writer is the conversations you have. Some people at work get questions like, ‘Has Mr Smith’s invoice been paid?” I get questions like “What made you think of a witch with a false bum?”
Your favourite word(s)?
Having just written the above, I am really liking the words “false” and “bum” at this exact moment. Put together in the right order, the words “Bed”, “Breakfast”, “Like,” “Would” “In” and “You” always make me happy, too. In writing I try not to have favourite words because you end up over-using them. “Shenanigans” is one that I am always deleting.
What are your top tips for budding children’s writers?
Writing is like playing an instrument: the more you do it the better you get, but from the moment you put pen to paper you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and be proud of it. Be passionate, creative and brave, too – when you’re writing you are a god, a creator of worlds, so believe in yourself. Don’t hide what makes you different: let it come out and play. Write the book you wish you’d had as a child and would still love now. You don’t have to do what people expect. Don’t worry too much about grammar. That little part of you that still wants to believe in magic? Don’t ever let it die. And if none of these tips work for you, ignore them. I have been known to talk absolute rubbish. So long as you keep writing you can walk whatever path you choose.
Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)
CAAAKE! I’m working on the next adventures of Alfie, Derek and the Professor at the moment. They will be getting visitors from the Unusual Cartography Club’s past, and Alfie is in for a BIG surprise. It also has some interesting facts about mermaids that people might not be aware of. I also have another connected idea bubbling away that I really, really, really want to write, so that’s next. Is that enough of a glimpse? What sort of cake do you have? Chocolate or lemon drizzle, I hope.
Did we forget anything?
Ah, I forget stuff all the time, too. If you’re looking for your wallet, try the freezer.
Just for fun
Tea or coffee?
I am an equal opportunities drinker of all hot beverages.
Seaside or countryside?
Is Outer Space an option? Can I go there?
Paper books or e-books?
Paper books for preference but I live in France and it takes aaaaages for books to be delivered. I have no patience at all and I can get whatever e-book I want in thirty seconds.
Cake or chocolate?
Again, this feels like you’re making me an offer. Don’t go to too much trouble but yes please, either or both.
Write or type?
Write for ideas, type for making an actual book. I have a notebook by the bed in case any ideas ever come to me in the night. A few weeks ago I woke up with it on the pillow next to me. I have no memory of it but during the night I’d scrawled the words “rotating butt handle” across the page. I have quite a complex life while I’m sleeping.
Poetry or prose?
Prose, with a bit of poetry as a side dish.
Hot or cold?
Hot! I dislike being cold with a fiery passion, which is why I live in the South of France. Cold has its place, but that place is tinkling ice cubes in a glass on a summer day.