Guest Post from Maudie Smith – Author of Opal Moonbaby

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Today we are taking part in the Opal Moonbaby blog tour and have a guest post from author Maudie Smith…

Writers under my skin

Some writers, I find, have a way of getting under your skin and staying there.

The first writer to do this for me was probably Dr Seuss. We were big Seuss fans in my house. The rhythms and rhymes of his language lend themselves brilliantly to being read aloud again and again. His strange and slightly spooky characters such as Sam I Am of Green Eggs and Ham fame and the eponymous Cat in the Hat have stayed with me. I think the books we learn more or less by heart when we are very young instil in us an instinctive grasp of how stories work. That’s something I cling to now when I’m writing and wondering if I’m heading in the right direction. I try to trust that the structure and workings of story are somehow inside me. The story will come out right in the end. It’s almost a mantra, like Horton’s in Horton Hatches the Egg. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”

I used to be an actor and I love dialogue. I’ve always liked ‘doing the voices’. Anyone passing by my open window when I’m working on a scene could be forgiven for thinking there was a madwoman in the house. I suppose that love of dialogue is the reason I liked Catherine Storr’s books so much. Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf is full of wonderful and very funny conversations between down-to-earth, pragmatic Polly and the wolf who is so desperate to eat her.

I was one of those children who thought there was a monster in the cupboard most of the time and that’s another reason why Storr’s books appealed to me. The big black wolf is quite scary, continually turning up at Polly’s door, trying to find ways to get in and eat her. No one but Polly seems to notice him much but Polly always manages to be one step ahead of him, seeing through his plans and thwarting them just in time. You don’t want the wolf to get Polly but you actually start to feel quite sorry for him. He has just the right blend of scariness and silliness.

This might be where my love of mixing fantasy and reality began. Mrs Pepperpot helped with that too. I adored the way this resourceful little party managed to get herself out of difficult fixes each time she was inconveniently reduced to the size of a condiment container. I loved to see how, out of necessity brought about by her shrinking, she used ordinary objects differently.

This was also the main attraction of The Borrowers. Chests of drawers made from match boxes, walls papered with old letters – all that paraphernelia ‘borrowed’ from the human world really captured my imagination and held onto it. Opal Moonbaby, the alien character in my book isn’t small but she does have a different take on the trappings of human life. She juggles food rather than eats it; she likes books for the way the print is so well-trained, standing in such straight lines, and she definitely doesn’t have the hang of the usual way to operate a shopping trolley.

Other childhood favourites were Frances Hodgson Burnett, Lewis Carroll, Nina Bawden, Richard Adams, Noel Streatfield, Elizabeth Enright, E Nesbit, Joan Aiken and C S Lewis. All of these great storytellers contributed to my love of a satisfying yarn. If I were forced to single out one book I would choose E Nesbit’s Five Children and It. The weird and magical psammead was a wonderful addition to the Victorian world of the ‘ordinary’ children; both worlds were quite alien to me though and I lapped up this story and the ones that followed.

Roald Dahl wasn’t part of my childhood but I’ve been lucky enough to read all his books to my own children and his darkly comic, straight to the point style is often in my mind when I’m writing. Not all modern young readers will put up with the leisurely pace and lengthy descriptive passages of some of the older classics. I think Dahl put up a literary signpost pointing us all in a new direction, calling for a new contemporary style of story-writing that engages closely with its reader and never patronises them.

I’m still being influenced by writers now; I don’t think it’s something that ever stops. Michael Morpurgo, Jill Murphy, Jacqueline Wilson, Andy Stanton, Eva Ibbotson, Michelle Paver, Catherine MacPhail, David Almond, Tanya Landman, Lauren Child, Patrick Ness…..and that’s only the children’s authors. The list just goes on growing. I only hope my skin can accommodate them all!

We have two copies of Opal Moonbaby to give away. Just retweet this post or leave a comment to enter. Open to UK only. Closes 27th January at 5pm

You can follow the Opal Moonbaby blog tour tomorrow by visiting www.chicklish.co.uk

Opal Moonbaby is available to buy now: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Opal-Moonbaby-Maudie-Smith/dp/1444004786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326232541&sr=8-1

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