“When I write, I wander and think in a very nice place. It makes me happy, which is a good state to be in when you’re thinking up ways to make kids laugh.”
To say that we were thrilled when Aaron Blabey agreed to be interviewed for our blog is an understatement! He is quite a legend in the children’s book world for writing funny, silly books with bright pictures that all kids love. Who hasn’t chuckled over Pig The Pug or seen a sausage dog on the street and wanted to call him Trevor? (Or is that just me?)
I was as excited as the kids were when I saw that his latest Pig book, Pig The Winner, had been released and could not wait to get it. Equally, The Brothers Quibble is especially poignant as I have two boys and always get a great laugh out of it. All of Aaron‘s books are hilarious and he has such a great sense of humour.
Aaron is so honest in his interview and, he might hate me for writing this, but I did not know he used to be an actor! Sorry Aaron!
We hope you love his interview as much as we did.
How do you find inspiration for your books?
Who knows? It just happens. I think the trick though is to remain open to it, all of the time. Then if a good idea drifts past, you can grab it.
Your latest Pig book, Pig The Winner is hilarious! Are there any more to come in the series? (Please!)
I have two concurrent series running at the moment – Pig the Pug and The Bad Guys. Both series will have around 10 instalments, possibly more, and they are a dream come true. I have my dream job at the moment. I just love making both of them.
You write and illustrate your books – do you get more joy out of one over the other?
It depends on the day. Joni Mitchell not only writes and sings, but she also paints. She refers to the alternation of the disciplines as ‘crop rotation’, and I really like that idea. If I’m in a writing phase, it’s all about wandering and thinking and freedom. When I’m in a picture phase, it’s all about immersing myself in loud music in my studio and creating. Both phases can be beautiful and both can be fraught. But they’re both more beautiful than not.
Is there a lot of yourself and your kids in your books? The Brothers Quibble is one that I am curious about in particular… (being a mum of 2 boys, even the cover makes me chuckle!)
Less and less so. I started (like a lot of writers) working very close to home but these days my outlook is much, much broader. As a result, my books have become a lot more popular. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. But yes, Quibble was the most baldly autobiographical one and accordingly, formed a kind of full stop on that kind of work. The next book was Pig the Pug and a whole new phase of funnier, looser, less melancholic work began. In reflection, it’s almost like my early books are in a warm, nostalgic sepia and my more recent work is in explosive Technicolor. Not literally, but energetically, spiritually and tonally.
You have done so many things and a lot of people may not know you’re also an actor – when did you start?
Just seeing the phrase “you’re also an actor” makes my stomach turn. I was really very lost for the first 15 years of my professional life and worked in an array of ill-fitting careers – acting, advertising, numerous others, that all fit me like a hair shirt. When I wrote my first book on the 5th of May 2006, I flew to Sydney specifically to visit my acting agent. I took her a bottle of champagne and said goodbye. I knew that I’d finally found my thing. I’ve never looked back.
How long does it take to create a book?
Some take weeks, some take years. It all depends. But I never work on less than five at once. That way I never turn into Gollum, obsessing over his ‘precious’.
Is there any advice you can offer someone looking to get a book idea published?
I’m a bit suspicious of anyone giving advice about this kind of thing, so I’m cagey about giving it myself. For me, it’s always been a question of just creating the coolest thing you can and then being brave and sending it out into the world. And these days, I have a sign on my desk that just reads DON’T BE BORING. That’s the advice I give myself every morning, so perhaps that can be my two cents worth here…
Does where you live inspire your books?
Not directly. But I live somewhere very beautiful (in the Blue Mountains) so when I write, I wander and think in a very nice place. It makes me happy, which is a good state to be in when you’re thinking up ways to make kids laugh.
What kind of space do you work in?
My studio is my favourite place in the world. It’s small, snug, nowhere near the house, full of vinyl records and is effectively the inside of my head, come to life. Perhaps I’ll have them bury me in it eventually.
Do you have a favourite book? One of yours and one by another author…
Me – The Bad Guys series
Someone else – Herge’s Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn
Did your parents encourage your creativity? Did you do art courses growing up, for instance?
I grew up in rural footy towns where art was treated with considerable suspicion, but my folks were always great. They were always very supportive, in the sense that they never stood in my way and were my biggest fans regardless of what shenanigans I was up to.
Are your children showing creative talent? Do you teach them to draw?
I wouldn’t presume to teach a kid how to draw. I love kid’s drawings. I love the freedom of them. I just try to not interfere. But both of my boys enjoy drawing, which is lovely. As long as it’s fun. That’s all that matters.
What kind of books do you like to read to your own children? Or what do they like to read?
The boys like the usual suspects – Andy and Terry, David Walliams, Roald Dahl. We’ve never pushed my books onto them because that always seemed like a weird thing to do, but they both love the Bad Guys which is very pleasing. If I get a thumbs up, I’m always very happy.
How old were your children when you started to read to them?
I’m not sure there was ever a time when we didn’t read to them. But my wife does most of the reading aloud in our house because she’s just excellent at doing different voices. The boys have always loved it.
Thank you so much, Aaron!
Aaron Blabey is most widely known for his well-loved, best-selling children’s picture books for which he has won many awards including an INDIE Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year, a Children’s Book Council of Australia – Book of the Year Award, a NSW Premiers Literary Award for Children’s Literature, two Australian Book Design Awards, two KOALA Awards, two YABBA Awards and a Children’s Peace Literature Award. He’s also been the National Literacy Ambassador and is a proud supporter for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
He lives in the Blue Mountains with his wife and their two boys, where he creates books and listens to his beloved vinyl record collection. For more, head to head to his website.