The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
A Delicate Truth
John le Carre
This House is Haunted
Red Sky in Morning
Thinking, Fast and Slow
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Q & A with Christopher William Hill
Hi Christopher, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the Dubray Books website. We are thrilled to have Osbert the Avenger as our Children's Book of the Month for October 2012. There are some questions we've been dying to ask you.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Staying in bed when it’s windy outside. Dropping everything to venture out for walks in the rain. Writing words that amuse me and getting paid for the pleasure.
Could you describe for us your typical working day?
I wake up every morning at seven thirty – then I go back to sleep for another couple of hours. I like toast and marmalade, which is good for the brain. Sometimes I write by hand and type up my notes, sometimes I do not. I fidget a lot and can’t sit still for long so I make many cups of tea. I go for walks with a pen and paper because it’s often easier for me to think when I’m moving quickly. I like sitting in coffee shops when it’s too difficult to work at my desk. And when things are so hard that even sitting in coffee shops doesn’t make things better, I talk to my editor – one of the kindest people in the world, who never says ‘no’ and always makes me think that closed doors can be opened.
Given the dark anarchic humour in your books, do you feel that comparisons between yourself, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl have any basis?
There’s a really rich tradition of dark tales for children. I’ve never wanted to write stories that end ‘happily ever after’ – I think many writers feel the same way. Mum had a very dark sense of humour and I am my mother’s son.
What was your favourite children's book?
I loved Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through The Looking Glass – it made me feel sick, but in the good way.
What inspired you to call your lead character Osbert?
I honestly can’t remember where I first saw the name Osbert – but I did discover ‘Brinkhoff’ in an old telephone directory.
Schwartzgarten feels like a real place: is it based on a real place or is it purely a product of your imagination?
Schwartzgarten does exist. However, it is very difficult to reach, unless one travels by the scheduled airship service. The mountain path is treacherous and many unwary motorists have plummeted thousands of feet to their deaths (those fortunate enough to survive have been consumed by wolves).
Did you have any horrid teachers yourself at school?
Not many, but some. One in particular – a very spiky character, with a face that seemed to have been carved from flint. I never saw her/him (even now I’m too scared to give away too much information) smile. Teachers who smile are often good teachers. Teachers who don’t smile are never good teachers.
Have you ever considered revenge?
Osbert The Avenger is my revenge.
How did you come up with the idea of a slow torturous death by apple strudel?
My family have been bakers for over two hundred years and you can’t fight genetics. It seemed absolutely natural to me to slay a character with strudel.
Can you reveal how you researched such deliciously dark murders or is that classified information?
You’re safer not knowing.
We really like the characters of both Nanny and Isabella. Can you give us any clues as to whether they might feature in future books in this series?
Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Always write the story you want to write. Never write the story you think someone else wants you to write.
We believe you lead a double life. Can you tell us a little about your acting career?
This a bit of a myth, I’m afraid – like the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster. I wasn’t really good enough to be called a proper actor. I liked dressing up in costumes and putting on silly voices and for three lucky months, many years ago, I was paid to do it.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
‘Christopher, you have very handsome eyebrows. Are they your own?’
Would you like to take this opportunity to answer that question?
Thank you very much for your kind question. They are indeed my own eyebrows.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer our many questions.