We were thrilled to have the chance to interview Adrian Beck, author of the newly released Affirm Press title The Alien Zoo recently. It was particularly fun because I have just finished reading it aloud together with Master 7, who thoroughly enjoyed the action, adventure and strange creatures involved in the book.
Read on for the answers to our questions and also to enter our giveaway. You could win one of 3 copies of The Alien Zoo kindly provided by Affirm Press.
Here’s what we asked:
Is there a book you remember most fondly from your childhood? What is it?
I read Stephen King's 'IT' when I was way too young for 'IT'. That gave me nightmares for years. But before that I remember being obsessed with Richard Scarry's 'Busytown'. I used to love all the details and seeing the animals go about their day. Lowly Worm was my favourite; I loved his little apple car!
We see that you are a TV producer as well as an author. Did you always want to be a write books growing up?
I've always been into writing! I used to write heaps of stories as a kid and loved it when we did creative writing at school. But I actually never dreamed I'd be able to be an author one day. I was good at drawing too, so I thought a sensible use of my creative skills might be to become an architect one day. Many years down the track I was enrolled to become a primary school teacher when I received a call: a TV idea that I'd submitted had earned me an internship at a TV station! That changed everything. Getting into TV set me on a path to realise that writing professionally was actually a real possibility. Now these days, when I visit schools, I try to explain that being an author is possible, in case there's a kid in the group who loves writing but doesn't consider it a real option; they way I used to think.
How did you get “discovered” or started as a writer?
Early on in my TV career, I put my hand up to write some scripts and I just seemed to keep writing them as each new segment was required. Then, by the time I met Shane Crawford (through TV) I had the confidence to give writing books a go. We decided it would be a lot of fun to work on a kids' footy series together. Initially it was going to be about him as a youngster but we decided just to base 'Nick' on Crawf and set the series in the present so that we could include current day footy references and also modern technology. We sent off our manuscript and the rest was history! Fortunately for us, Crawf was sort of famous, so that made the process a billion times easier I'm sure.
Do you base your characters on anyone in particular? Are they based on real life people?
Quite a bit, actually. I wrote a book for the 'Stuff Happens' series where the lead character is basically me. Except he can sing. Plus, Nick from 'Kick it to Nick' is 100% Crawf. But usually my characters are people I know with a bit of a twist. For 'Jen' from Alien Zoo, I imagined my eldest daughter as an 11 year old. And Ben and Jen's little alien friend is based on my childhood dog... If she had been able to talk. Is that weird?!
Where do you find your inspiration for a story? In particular what inspired The Alien Zoo?
I have way too many book ideas to ever get time to write them all. I'm lucky that way. I save notes on my phone to keep track. I often find myself daydreaming and out of nowhere two seemingly unrelated concepts suddenly combine to form an idea. I let them sit for a while and pursue the ones that stick. 'Alien Zoo' was mainly inspired by my girls' fascination with animals. They LOVE the zoo. Most kids do, of course. At first I thought it would be fun to write a story about kids running their own zoo, but I decided to take it up a notch and add an array of weird and wonderful creatures. I also love books about secret worlds and mysteries, so I decided to make the zoo hidden inside a mountain. In terms of book influences, I think there's a little bit of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', 'Jurassic Park' and maybe 'One Fish Two Fish' all mixed into the series. I'm really proud of the final result and I think Heath's incredible illustrations have brought it to life in ways I never imagined.
Do you test out your stories on your daughters?
I've just started to. They've been a bit young until now. I study their reactions intently, but I try not to let it show! We read other authors' books together every night and it's a great way for me to keep up to date with all the latest kids' books that are out there. We get through an enormous amount! We're currently reading the latest 'Olive Black' which is a ripper.
Any final comments?
Thanks for your questions! I hope kids love 'The Alien Zoo', we have many more installments to come and the creatures only get weirder!
To go in the running to win your very own copy of The Alien Zoo tell us in the comments why living with your kids is sometimes like living in an Alien Zoo.
The Terms and Conditions
This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter
Entries are open from 11th July to 30th July and are open to Australian Residents only.
The best 3 answers as chosen by Story Mama will receive a copy of The Alien Zoo and You by Adrian Beck and illustrated by Heath McKenzie. Prize is not redeemable for cash and is courtesy of Affirm Press
The winners will be chosen by Debbie Hatswell, Founder of Story Mama children’s books and no correspondence will be entered into. This is a competition based on skill. To enter submit your answer in the comments below.