with Ben Miller, author of The Night We Got Stuck in a Story (available here)
Can you introduce the plot of The Night We Got Stuck in a Story?
It’s about Harrison and Lana and they go to stay with Nana and Grandad because it’s the Easter holidays, and at the bottom of Nana and Grandad’s garden is a magical hollow tree. They discover that if they climb up inside this hollow tree and out of the top they can go inside their bedtime story.
What was your favourite part to write?
I loved writing Yashar the bear which they meet in this magical fairytale world. He’s got a really interesting story but you’re not sure how friendly a bear he is to start with. He’s a little offhand with Lana but he ends up being her friend and ally. I like the character of the bear. He takes her to his cave and makes lots of magical potions in his cave and I think that would be a really fun place to go – into a bear’s cave!
What research did you do for the book?
Well, Lana and Harrison are my own children so I spend all my time with them and like writing adventures about them and for them. And Nana and Grandad are based on their real Nana and Grandad. There is a real hollow tree, not at Nana’s house, but near my house where I live in the countryside. I discovered it when I was walking my dog in lockdown. I couldn’t believe it! It’s an incredible hollow tree – I love hollow trees and think they’re very magical things – but this one was particularly special because it has a face; three holes which make two eyes and a mouth. I thought it would be amazing to write a story about that.
What or who inspires you to write?
I get a lot of inspiration from my children and the things they talk about. The stories I loved when I was growing up give me a lot of inspiration – I loved Enid Blyton’s adventure stories and Alan Garner, who used to write fantasy set in Cheshire where I grew up.
The countryside also gives me a lot of inspiration. My house is in the middle of a wood so it’s quite creepy. When I write in my little shed I’m completely surrounded by woods and I can hear animals moving in there. There are badgers, deer and a tawny owl. There are also kites – that’s where I got the idea for the kites in the story from – there are a pair who have nested in a tree in the woods. I feel like I’m right in the middle of lots of animals and it feels very inspiring and magical.
How would you describe your writing style?
I want to tell exciting stories. When a kid picks up the book I want them not to be able to put it down, I want them to be chasing to the end of the story and really desperate to know what happens next. I think first of all I like writing adventure. I love writing about magic. I like it when there’s a character who has magical powers or you can go into an magical world. Finally, I love the main character to be someone who almost feel you know, as if you’re almost in their shoes, and they’re someone you really want to spend time with. So when not-so-good things happen to them, you really want them to succeed.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Definitely Winnie the Pooh. I loved the fact they went on an adventure and I love that it was set in a wood and I loved the comedy. I loved the feeling that it was a magical special world, but very ordinary things seemed to happen in it. The more ordinary the things which happened the funnier it was. So when Pooh ate a bit too much honey and got stuck in rabbit hole, that just seemed incredibly funny!
What is the best question you’ve been asked by a fan?
I get asked so many brilliant questions by my readers. The most perceptive question someone asked me was: ‘So in the book The Boy Who Made the World Disappear, Harrison is 7 and Lana is 3 and then in The Day I Fell into a Fairytale and Lana is 7 and Harrison is 12, how is that possible?’ and I knew I’d done that and I did it for a specific reason because I thought the story would be best told by children of that age. I just hoped no one would notice! But I didn’t get away with it!
What do you enjoy about doing school events?
They’re the most fun you can have. I loved it at school when something out of the ordinary happened like a visitor coming to visit us. When I started out I was an actor so I really like performing in front of people, so school events are really great fun. I like the sense of chaos and anything can happen! I used to love that feeling when I was doing comedy. Comedy is a bit anarchic. In comedy you listen carefully to the audience, the audience make you funny, so you really pay attention to them and you follow them and you end up having a lot of fun. So I really enjoy the school events since it’s a bit like doing comedy and a bit like being a teacher, so you have a bit of responsibility but not too much. You can have a lot of fun because it feels slightly rebellious.
What is the best thing about being a children’s author?
There are so many brilliant things about being a children’s author. But the best thing is when a boy or a girl comes up to you after an event and says that they’re read one of my books and one of my books got them inside reading. Finding a love of reading is probably the most important thing that will ever happen to you as a young person. If you can find books that you love it’s so wonderful – to learn about the world and help your own writing and thinking. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. So if anyone says ‘your book got me into reading’ that’s all I need to hear to help me feel encouraged and make me want to write more stories.
The Night We Got Stuck in a Story is out in paperback on 11th May 2023
You can pre-order now https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Night-We-Got-Stuck-in-a-Story/Ben-Miller/9781471192500
Many thanks to Ben for visiting our blog!
The Night We Got Stuck in a Story is available to purchase from Amazon or Bookshop.
Check out our Reading for Pleasure booklists to find more recommended storytime books for children.
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