Interview with Leigh Hodgkinson – Author of Goldilocks and Just the One Bear

Leigh Hodgkinson is our March Author in Residence. Here is our interview with Leigh…

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I studied animation direction and worked in the animation industry till around 2006 In that time, amongst doing commercial and tv projects I made lots of little films. I love combining sound, motion, characters and story to make magical things that take you somewhere else. (This is true of picture books also!)

I used to make my books in a shed called Bernard (after “Not now Bernard”). We had to give the shed a name as we had two sheds and it got confusing. Now I work in my house and sometimes wear my slippers all day long!

I am a real hoarder and find it hard to throw stuff away am still living in denial that one day I will be allowed to be a Blue Peters presenter and make things with sticky back plastic and washing up bottle tops (of which I have a huge jar of). My golden day of hoarding was when I discovered a skip full of buttons in London. I thought I was dreaming and filled up my bag and pockets.

I love finding smooth round stones on the beach, I hate slugs, I love making soup, I hate doing tax returns and other boring groan up things, I love staring at my little girl when she is asleep, I hate making sensible telephone calls, I love pressing my face against cold rainy windows, I hate time whooshing by so very fast.

Tell us about Goldilocks and Just the One Bear and your inspiration for this
I always wonder what happens to the lives of characters when you close the book. Are they stuck in limbo forever or do they secretly carry on living and learning. I wondered what sort of person Goldilocks turned out as…. Did she have a family? Where did she live? And I liked the idea of little bear inadvertently stumbling into her cosmopolitan life and being completely out of context. I always thought that “Goldilocks and the three bears” was an unusual sort of story- as it was the little girl, goldilocks that was the “baddy”. As a child I found it hard not to judge her for being so rude, self centred and thoughtless… but in my book I wanted to explore what it would be like if the boot was on the other foot. So this book is my own little way of readdressing the goldilocks karma balance!

Where is your favourite place to write?

I always have a notebook with me wherever I go. In it I scribble down words, phrases, names and doodles that stick in my mind and strike me as being something interesting. At that early stage they might not be a fully fledged super duper idea… but over time little collections of these words, phrases, names and doodles clump together and seem to be telling me something. I find that writing is sort of like a puzzle… there is always an answer or an idea in there- it is the rooting it out and realising what it means that is the real challenge and fun.

When I get down to the nitty gritty of making sense of all this notebook scribblings- I do this on the computer. Computers are wonderful as they act as an extension of your brain. My brain is very flighty and zips about. So working editorialy in a non-linear on the computer way suits me down to a tee. The only rules I have when working on texts at this stage is I have to be alone, and I have to have complete silence. Not even music, as that changes the emotion of the writing and I am prone to inadvertently type words that I hear in lyrics, and then it all goes very pear shaped indeed.

Do you read your stories out aloud to see how they sound for parents reading to children?
I always read them aloud. They sound so different when spoken words. This can be a bit embarrassing when I am in public (like on the train) as people must think I am completely bonkers.

I always cram too many words into my text… so the challenging part is to be a brutal editor and not be precious of certain phrases that you like the sound of. What remains in the text has to be more than texture and window dressing. It has to add to the narrative in some way.

Now that I am a mummy, I am more conscious than ever about the act of reading a child a story. It is most likely to be read at the end of the day when both child AND parent are tired- so now I am thinking that simplicity is the key.

I like to be playful with the visual representation of words. I guess this links in to my animation days when the words would be the voice and soundtrack. I like to give the way words look a dynamic flair to indicate how they are intended to be read. I hope people don’t think I am being too bossy but that it makes the performance more fun and dramatic!

What are you working on now?

I am making my second book with the lovely Nosy Crow publishers. I am lucky enough to be able to work with my dream team there- designer Giselle Gimblett and editor Kate Burns. They are so brilliant and make it really fun.

The book is about a rubbish troll and a not very good little girl. It is all written and now I am onto the artwork stage. This is the fun bit as it involves snipping and sticking painting and making the characters real. I always have to give the characters a proper full name (with surname) whether it stays in the book or not. It makes them real and they become really good friends of mine when I am working on the book. The girl in the book is called Tabitha Lumpit and the troll is called Timothy Limpet

What do you like to do outside of writing?
I just like making things and being creative. I am not very good at sitting still and twiddling my thumbs. If I sit still for more than one minute then I start daydreaming and plotting my next hair brained scheme… (could be a book/cake/stuffed toy/ picture/ crocheted animal or whatever).

I love swimming. Having a nice stretch in some water is the perfect time to ponder about things.. but on the move. I suppose I am a bit like a basking shark (but not as scary).

I am in the process of setting up an etsy shop (called Wonkybutton) for my stuff. Prints, cards, tea towels, bags and lovely crafty sewing things to make- that sort of thing. My idea of heaven would be to have a magical shop/studio where I would make frothy coffees and nice people would drop in and nibble yummy things (banana bread for sure). We would have 1940s records playing and people would make things out of papermache and sticky tape on big old tables then buy some of my things on their way out. (Mmmn… maybe I am a bit of a head in the clouds type of person