One of my favourite books so far this year has been the super-sweet For The Record, a lovely tale of villagers rallying round to try and break 50 world records to save their village. Author Ellie Irving was kind enough to agree to an interview with me.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
I like to think of happy, smiley faces - readers of any age from say, 8, upwards, enjoying the craziness of the story. And hopefully laughing at the odd joke (some of them very odd...) I try and write with a knowing nod to the adults reading, so I like to think it raises a smile among them, too.
2. One of my favourite things about For The Record was the gorgeous setting of Port Bren - so what's your favourite fictional location?
I'm going to have to say Narnia. Post the White Witch's reign, obviously, where everything is glorious and humans can gallivant about to their heart's content without time ticking on in the real world. The Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory comes a very close second, though.
3. What are you reading now and how are you finding it?
I tend to read a lot of children's books, but I have just finished 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ' by Phillip Pullman, which is only the third or fourth 'grown up' book I've read this year. I'm about to start The History Keepers by Damien Dibben, which I'm very excited about.
4. Which of the 74 world records attempted would you have most liked to be able to watch?
I would have liked to have seen the 'Longest time to hold on to a galloping sheep' record, but I'm pretty sure that's the sort of thing you can see on youtube. Although it's not technically a record, picturing Walking-Stick Glyn attempting to recreate Pamplona's Running of the Bulls always makes me smile.
5. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
If I can go back in time and ask the question, I'd catch JK Rowling as she stepped off the train all those years ago and say, 'you don't really want to do anything with that boy wizard idea, do you? Let me take that off your hands.'
6. Where did you get the inspiration for For The Record from?
A few years ago I saw an article on Teletext about a village in Spain that broke the record for making the world's largest salad, and it just made me think, 'why would a village go to those
lengths? Why bother?' It made me wonder what would happen if the village had to break a record, and what would be resting on whether or not they achieved it, and the idea sort of grew from there. I was pretty surprised that there haven't been similar stories about world records already, but then I guess I'm probably the only person in the world who still reads Teletext.
7. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what's the soundtrack to For The Record? (I'm thinking Belle and Sebastian personally; they're perfect to listen to while reading it in any case!)
I do listen to music as I write, though normally it's just the radio in the background. I did listen to the theme tune from Record Breakers with good old Roy Castle many, many times, though. Altogether now...'dedication's what you need...'
8. Who's your favourite character in For The Record?
Simon was the first character I created, so he holds a special place in my heart. I love his kindness and his offbeat sense of humour. I love Luke's enthusiasm and determination, but if I had to choose, I'd say Grandad Barry. I LOVE him, special occasion toupees (Hanukkah) and all.
9. Is there any book you'd recommend to readers of For The Record to keep them going while they're waiting for your next novel?
I'm a massive fan of Frank Cottrell Boyce, so I'd recommend anything by him - Millions and Framed are my favourites.
10. What's next for Ellie Irving?
I've just finished work on my second book, 'Billie Templar's War,' which is due out next year. It's about a girl whose Dad is off fighting in the Army, and her efforts to get the Queen to send him home from the war. Aside from that, I'm also working on other ideas and stories.
Sounds fantastic - I'll look forward to reading it, Ellie. Many thanks for your time in answering these questions.