Bookbug Author Spotlight: Gareth Edwards
Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of authors, illustrators and publishers connected to the Bookbug programme. This month we shine the spotlight on Gareth Edwards, author of The Disgusting Sandwich, which is currently included in our Bookbug Explorer Bag.
What inspired you to start writing/ illustrating for children?
I always enjoyed inventing stories for my children. One day one of them said to me I should write a story down and it could be made into a book. I said I thought that would probably be really difficult and she looked at me and said 'No, you really can.'
What is your favourite memory from childhood?
One day in the park, my American grandmother told me there was a magic tree and if I looked I might find a lollipop tucked under one of the roots. There was! Although I checked the tree every day after that, the magic tree stopped working the day my grandmother went back to America.
I told my children that it wasn’t going to be published and they were outraged. So much so that they 'published' it themselves, each doing their own illustrations for three or four pages
What was the inspiration behind The Disgusting Sandwich?
Several amazing things happened to make this book a reality, but the absolute best was this: Stephanie, my lovely agent, had sent the book to several publishers who had all replied that they thought it was a bit, well, disgusting. I told my children that it wasn’t going to be made into a book and they were outraged. So much so that they 'published' it themselves on the kitchen table, each doing their own illustrations for three or four pages, and they presented it to me in triumph the next day. It was beautiful. Not long after that Alison Green read the book and loved it and here it is in all its yucky glory. Hence the dedication – 'To my children, who know how to spot a badger with potential.'
What’s your top tip for sharing The Disgusting Sandwich with little ones?
This is really a book you can join in with. You really want to get everyone saying, 'Well you can’t eat it now. It's disgusting!' At readings it’s been really fun getting children to draw their own disgusting sandwiches too… Yuck!
Which books did you love as a child?
I loved all Dr Seuss, especially Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose, and I was obsessed with Where the Wild Things Are (pictured, left). I used to look at the pictures of the forest growing in Max’s room for hours, working out how the bed turned into the trees, 'and the walls became the world all around'. I also had a book called A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy which is impossible to better for its treatment of the reality of imagination. It’s also very funny.
If you could live in any book you’ve written or illustrated which would it be and why?
I would love to live in the forest that Guy Parker-Rees has drawn for my story, Fabulous Pie. It has tall trees, gorgeous blackberries, plump hazelnuts, a river full of otters and salmon, and gorgeous sunsets. It would be heaven on earth, as long as I didn’t meet the Very Bad Bear who also happens to live there.
Is there a picture book you wish you’d written or illustrated?
Sam Lloyd’s unpredictably surreal Mister Pusskins and Jan Fearnley’s hilarious Mister Wolf’s Pancakes are both books that are exactly my sense of humour and I’d have loved to have come up with either!
Is there a book, an author or any other individual who inspired your love of books?
My favourite writer and my personal hero is Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, not just for the profound, funny and wise The Little Prince, but for his writing for adults too. He writes beautifully about the nature of hope and the source of creativity, and he said the best thing I have ever read about writing, although he was talking about aeroplane design at the time: 'Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away'.
Tell us about the view from the office/studio where you work?
My window looks out onto our little London garden. In the summer this year a pair of foxes regularly napped under our neighbour's tree. Cats come and go. Magpies chatter. Robins whistle. Crows cavort. Now and again a squirrel goes to incredible lengths to reach the bird feeder. There’s a lot to see if you really put your mind to being distracted.
Your brain is a tree. Ideas are birds. Sometimes an idea bird will come and perch in your tree.
What’s your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?
Your brain is a tree. Ideas are birds. Sometimes an idea bird will come and perch in your tree. You don’t know when this is going to happen so you have to be ready with nesting materials, otherwise known as paper and pens. And if you really want an idea bird to come to your tree, sometimes you really need everything to be quiet.