A while ago, I reviewed Faiz Kermani‘s The Frog who Loved Mathematics on my blog (read the review here). The author contacted me a little later to thank me for my positive review so I jumped at the opportunity to ask him if he would answer a few questions for my blog. He agreed, so here you can find his responses to my many, many questions.
First, the main question: why a frog?
FK: It’s weird, but I really don’t know the answer…however, the more I write about frogs the more I like them. I think my books are part of a new genre – Frog-friendly fiction!
How do you choose the subjects you write about?
FK: By chance. Lots of things from daily life seem to spark off odd ideas for stories.
Why do you write children’s books?
FK: I think I’m still a kid at heart and the funny things I write about appeal to me too.
Drawings are very important in children’s books, how did you choose the illustrator for your books?
FK: My stories often have crazy, wacky themes, so I like illustrators who also find similar stuff amusing. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with people who are both talented and fun.
If there is one element from your books that you could take and implement in our everyday world, what would it be?
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for your books?
FK: I’ve been writing about a toad recently, so I had to do some research to find out whether toads have teeth or not (people will have to work out the answer themselves on that one!)
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
FK: Scientific and creative with a very silly sense of humour!
What are three things you couldn’t live without?
FK: Family, friends and laughter
What did you want to be when you were little?
FK: An astronaut − or a garbage collector. Is it possible to be both?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
FK: Being able to time travel would be cool. Otherwise I’ll settle for magical powers like in Harry Potter.
What was your favourite book growing up?
Which writers do you look up to?
FK: In the world of children’s books the list would be big and would have to include Roald Dahl, J K Rowling and Tove Jansson. There are so many good writers though and I am always discovering new ones.
If you could have dinner with any character from any book, who would it be and why?
FK: Wow another hard question. Let’s go for Albus Perceval Wulfric Brian Dumbledore for being wise, talented and kind – a rare combination. I am sure he could recommend a good restaurant.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
FK: As soon as I was able to write my name!
Why did you want to be a writer?
FK: It’s fun to tell stories and share them.
Where does your inspiration come from?
FK: Crazy, unpredictable daily life…
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
FK: About 2 years.
How do you combine your day job with your writing?
FK: With extreme difficulty. I find odd moments here and there to write – early mornings, late nights, Christmas holidays etc.
Do you have any surprising or quirky writing habits?
FK: Not really. I think it’s what I write that is weird!
What does your writing process look like?
FK: I don’t think many people would be impressed my writing process as it has no identifiable structure to it. I tend to just write free flow and edit later. Often I have no idea what’s going to happen next as I happily go along. If I reach a dead end I just leave it and come back later. Somehow it all comes together.
What is the first thing you write down when starting a new book?
FK: Whatever comes to mind, whether it’s a thought for the beginning, middle or end of the story.
What’s the most difficult part of writing a book, according to you?
FK: Definitely editing. I really don’t enjoy going back over my work several times over, but there is no escape. Also, when the book comes out you just have to expect that you can’t please everyone and get ready for some terrible reviews – ouch!
How do you write?
FK: I write on a computer, although I sometimes use bits of paper to mess about with ideas in a visual way.
Could you explain the literacy projects you’re involved in?
FK: I work with a number of schools, especially during reading weeks. Teachers tell me that if authors come in then the children are more motivated. I also work with a few charities. At the moment I’m working with the World Medical Fund on a book that can be used with children who attend their health clinics in Malawi in Africa. As well as encouraging reading, we hope it will provide an interesting diversion from all the medical challenges they face.
Why are these literacy projects so important to you?
FK: Education is an essential right for children, so encouraging literacy is part of that. Also, I think that if you love books yourself then you want to make sure that children get the opportunity to enjoy them too.
How does it feel to see results of the literacy projects you’re involved in?
FK: If my participation helps in a tiny way to get the children more motivated to read and write then that is fantastic. I learn a lot from these experiences too. The teachers and children provide me with so much encouraging feedback.
What’s the best reaction you’ve gotten from your young readers?
FK: I love the honesty of the children. They always make me laugh. Recently, one young girl got kind of annoyed that I kept writing about frogs and asked me whether I could write about anything else. So I told her that my next book was about a toad – she was not impressed at all and said: “you know what I mean!”