Guy Bass is the author of the widely popular and hilarious Spynosaur and Stitch Head series. Here he talks to Ian Eagleton about his new book, his sworn enemies and his love of spies and dinosaurs!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about Spynosaur: No More Mr Nice Spy, which was released last year?
It’s a classic spy-on-the-run comedy romp, featuring everything you’d want out of a classic spy-on-the-run comedy romp, including dinosaurs in wigs, monkeys driving tanks and a secret volcano lair. And there’s a plot and everything – when Spynosaur is accused of eating the princess of Canada’s prized pet, Pugsy Malone, he has his Right to Spy revoked. Convinced that he’s been framed, Spynosaur goes rogue and tries to solve the mystery of poor Pugsy Malone before it’s too late, which it almost is, several times. It’s got more twists and turns than you could shake a dinosaur’s tail at. Not that I’d recommend shaking a dinosaur’s tail.
Why do you think the Spynosaur series has become so popular?
I’m terrible at judging whether something is destined for popularity. Whoever thought baked beans would catch on? And yet here I am, spilling bean juice on my keyboard as I write. That said, I love spies, I love dinosaurs and I loved the idea of putting the two together – and if it so happens that I’m I not totally alone in enjoying that idea then I am a happy author.
You’ve recently released a new title, published by Barrington Stoke, called Noah Scape Can’t Stop Repeating Himself. How is this book similar to your other books? How is it different?
Well, for a start it’s about numbers, which have never been my strong suit. Noah decides he needs more of himself and suddenly starts doubling his number every day. First there are two of him, then four, then eight and so on. The number gets very large, very quickly, and Noah realises that he might have made a mistake. I suppose it’s different from my other books in the sense it’s not really a happy ending, more of an uh-oh-this-is-almost-certainly-going-to-end-very-badly cliff-hanger type ending…
What makes Noah Scape Can’t Stop Repeating Himself especially good for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers?
Barrington Stoke put every manuscript through an extra edit to make sure their stories are as accessible, readable and deliciously, delightfully, deliberately short-ish. I had around 6,000 words to play with and just tried to tell the best story I could.
I wondered if you’ve ever thought about Stitch Head and Spynosaur teaming up and what this might look like?
That would be a very tense team up – Spynosaur is all about countdowns and explosions and constantly cheating death. Stitch Head would spend his whole time trying to get away from him…
What does a day in the life of Guy Bass look like when you’re writing?
It looks like this. Oh, wait, you can’t see me. Well, I’m in my golden penthouse dressed in a tuxedo and monocle and holding a quill pen in both hands as I write two books simultaneously, while counting my awards with my right foot and painting a portrait of my pet gerbil, Daniel Day Lewis, with my left foot.
Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
The blank page. After weeks or months of mulling and heaps of notes, I’ll sit down at my computer, type the title (if I’ve got one) and away I go. That moment just before I start writing in earnest is glorious. Everything after that, unfortunately, is hard work.
You’ve worked with lots of different illustrators (including Lee Robinson and Pete Williamson). What’s it like seeing your characters transformed into illustrations?
If it’s not the best part of my job, it’s pretty close. I love seeing the characters brought to life by illustrators. I feel very lucky to have worked with so many brilliant artists, even if bearing witness to their talent fills me with boiling, jealous rage.
What books, authors or films would you say have particularly influenced your writing and career?
Roald Dahl, Marvel Comics, Jeff Smith’s Bone comic, The Studio Ghibli films, The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, E.T. and every Saturday morning cartoon of the 1980s.
What advice would you give to children who say they don’t like reading?
Read one of my books. It’s a guaranteed enjoyable reading experience or your money back! (Money back guarantee not guaranteed.)
How can teachers promote a love of reading and reading for pleasure in their classrooms and schools?
Class reads. What better way to end every day than to read a book together? Throw in some library time and book discussion sessions and you’ll be well on your way to a school, nay planet, filled with readers. I’m sure I had something to add but I can’t think what… *cough*author visits*cough*
You get to visit lots of schools and children – what can schools expect when you visit and what’s your favourite part about these author visits?
You can expect a sublime sandwich of sort-of stand-up, stories, and supremely satisfying silliness. And I can expect to leave the house and actually meet actual people! Everyone’s a winner.
Apart from your own book, is there another book or author you would recommend to children that you’ve enjoyed recently?
Andy Stanton, Phil Earle, Gareth P Jones, Liz Million, Philip Ardagh, Claire Barker, Steve Webb, Tracey Corderoy, Barry Hutchison … are just a few of my sworn enemies, so you should avoid their excellent books at any cost.
Finally, can you tell us what are you currently working on?
I’ve got a new book out very soon if not already called Laura Norder, Sheriff of Butts Canyon with Barrington Stoke, about a girl who appoints herself sheriff of a dusty Wild West town and insists everyone lives by her Golden Rules. But it turns out a no-good rule breaking so-and-so named Duncan Disorderly has other ideas…
Right now I’m working on a brand new series with Stripes Publishing called Skeleton Keys, a horror comedy in a similar vein of Stitch Head (and illustrated by Stitch Head and Dinkin Dings illustrator Pete Williamson) about imaginary friends coming to life, narrated by and starring a particularly dapper key-fingered skeleton. Look for the first book, creepily enough, around Halloween.