Today I am joined by author, Julia Wills, a lady with a unique comic voice and a passion for Greek mythology.
Over to Julia…
The Fun Five:
- What part of the world do you come from?
I was born in Stafford but brought up in Stockport, the northern town famous for its great big Victorian viaduct. (The artist L S Lowry was very fond of painting this, although it did take up most of his paint, which meant that he had to make his cats and dogs very thin.)
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to be either a vet or a ballerina. Luckily, I opted for writing instead, otherwise I could have been harassing windy hamsters whilst wearing a glittering tutu by now.
- List three words to describe yourself?
Persistent, hard-working, fun loving
- Who would play you in a film about your life?
Tigger! We have relentless bounce, enthusiasm and wobbly bottoms in common.
- Who is your favourite author?
As a writer I have lots of favourite authors, but amongst them are Ruth Rendell, Thomas Hardy, Ray Bradbury, Michael Lawrence, Geoffrey McSkimming, Andrew Norriss, Georgia Byng and A.A. Milne.
The Functional Five:
- What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always wanted to write and am lucky enough to have a very strong sense of humour. So, the two combine in the novels I write.
Humour is a marvellous way to make people think about more serious things, and my books, although laugh-out-loud funny, have real messages inside them.
- What made you choose to write for children?
I chose to write for children because of its fun and freedom together with the magic that you can sprinkle into the books. Children’s writing, when it’s done well, opens the door of reading and books to youngsters for the rest of their lives. It hands them a key to go to another place, whenever they want to, however old they are and whatever things might be happening in their own lives. The lovely feedback I have had from the children, parents, teachers and librarians who have read my books, has confirmed that no writing is more special.
I have been writing for over twenty years and ‘Fleeced!’, although the sixth novel I have written, was the first to be published. It was also the first one that I seriously pitched to agents. I was lucky enough to be taken on by a literary agent and the book was subsequently published, first by Templar, and now, in its second print-run, by Piccadilly Press.
‘Fleeced!’ and ‘Rampage!’ are both comedy-adventures starring a very different sort of Ancient Greek hero: Aries, the bald, ghost ram of the Golden Fleece, still furious after Jason and the Argonauts stole his beautiful coat.
The idea for the books came to me as a primary school teacher, when I saw how much children love the Ancient Greeks, their monsters, their heroes and the jaw-dropping adventures. It made me think about how the fabulous monsters must have felt, being chopped, lopped and bopped into oblivion by men such as Jason and Perseus.
At the same time, I saw how some children struggled to read and make sense of the jumble of letters on the page, and what a huge reward a laugh was for all that effort! The two observations combined in a comedy hero of Ancient Greece, but one on a serious mission. What would Aries do if he had the chance to find his beautiful golden coat again? How would a mad-looking ram, and his long-suffering best friend, Alex, cope in modern London? I wrote strong male and female characters, heroically pitched against an ice-cold sorceress, Medea, the princess who had originally helped Jason and the Argonauts
- Your books are laugh out loud funny, and I have giggled my way through the first few chapters of Fleeced! and marvelled at the ‘voice’. How easy do you find it to write humour for a young audience?
I find that even when I set out to write serious, things turn out funny. But it is hard to write humour for children. You have to be aware of the sort of humour they get, and how it works in a story. Sarcasm, for example, goes over the heads of most eight-year olds. The pace has to be lively, the characters believable and sympathetic. There’s no room for boring characters or dull bits and there has to be real peril!
The voice comes naturally from Aries’ classic comedy persona: the pompous, vain, proud nature set against his ridiculous appearance. He’s also a fish (or rather, ram!) out of water – a faded Greek monster, devoid of his glory, and incensed at the way things are in Ancient Greece, and – watch out everybody – determined to do something about it.
- What can we expect from you in the future?
More laughs! I have heaps of great ideas for a third book in the series –ideas and scenes have been popping into my mind a lot lately, but I also have some thoughts for new standalone comedies with completely different characters. At the moment they are all bubbling away in my mind, but from experience I know that one will fizz and pop more loudly than the others and demand to be written.
- Where can we find out more about you and your books?
“Don’t ask me how much I loved this book. It’s great and even greater for Percy Jackson fans.” Felix (Child Reviewer for The Guardian on-line.)
“Action-packed reads that will turn young learners on to a rich history and a timeless stock of stories.” Teach Primary Magazine.