I am delighted that the RHCBA blog tour today stops here, and even more delighted that Alex T Smith has come to visit. His book Claude in the Country is shortlisted in the younger readers category (see my review here). I asked Alex a few questions about Claude, cake, countryside and a few other things as well.
What was the inspiration behind the Claude series?
Well, actually it was a kitchen wall!
I was living in a house I didn’t like very much, but it had a large sunny Kitchen with a blank wall at the end. I decided one day that I was going to create a piece of artwork to hang there. Then one night when it was too hot to sleep I woke up in the middle of the night and started to doodle something for the wall. I drew a small plump dog who was wearing a beret and he was sitting in a café drinking a cup of tea. It was like he had been just waiting in my head for me to draw him because as I did all these ideas for stories came bursting out.
The inspiration for Claude as a character comes from a few places – firstly he’s a little bit like me as a child – quite inquisitive and Very Interested in Thing. Then there’s quite a bit of my Grandad Sid’s personality thrown in too. He was very clever, but an absolute eejit and would somehow or other find himself mixed up in really funny situations. Lastly, my parents have a dog called Murphy who has floppy ears and he absolutely loves having them brushed – so I decided to base Claude’s love of brushing his ears on him!
Sir Bobblysock is a mixture of both of my grandmothers and my great-aunt. I used to love listening to them all natter. I also drew inspiration for Sir Bobblysock from Larry Grayson, who used to present the Generation Game in the 1970s and whom I find really funny!
Claude and Sir Bobblysock enjoy quite an eventful day in the country. What would be your ideal day at the countryside?
I love going to the countryside – I love the fresh air and space. I think my ideal day would be like Claude’s – a trip to the farm. I really love animals and am hoping one day to have some chickens and maybe a goat too. So I would go to the farm and get stuck in helping. Ideally there would be some baby animals for me to help feed and generally goggle at. Then it would be a nice cup of tea and a sit down in a farmhouse next to a fire with some cake to go with it!
Claude and Sir Bobblysock have been getting into all sorts of mischief in the 6 books that have been published so far. Can you give us a little hint about what they might be up to in their next adventure?
There next adventure is, I think, very exciting indeed as I am currently working on Claude and Sir Bobblysock’s first picture book outing! It’s publishing next year and although I can’t tell you a lot about it, I can give you a clue: Claude *might* just need a bath and he *might* just forget that he’s left the water running and that *might* just flood the bathroom and be the start of an exciting water themed adventure!
Then I will be working on Claude’s 7th full length adventure. I’m not 100% what this is going to be yet, although I do hear the sound of a clapper board snapping and the words ‘ACTION!’ being yelled, so Claude and Sir Bobblysock might get involved with the big screen…
Ha! Yes I do love cakes and baking. I wish I had a favourite cake, but to be honest I am a fan of most of them. I don’t think you can go wrong with a good old Victoria sandwich cake though. They always taste good.
I think with Claude, he wouldn’t mind what flavour the cake was so long as it was hugely over the top and covered in icing and sprinkles and sparklers and with a great big cherry on top! He’s a more is more type of dog I think.
What are you drawing at the moment? (if this is not top secret information, of course)
Hmmm… it’s reasonably top secret. I’m working on the Claude picture book and thinking about his next fiction adventure. I’m also in the early stages of work for my next picture book after the Claude one.
I’m afraid I’m not allowed to give you a clue about that… not even a tiny one…
“SSSssssh!No one is meant to know about you yet!”
I’m also working on a picture for Halloween. I always do a picture to send out to clients and friends and to post on my blog and Twitter, so keep your eyes open for that soon!
If you could illustrate any book of your choice (children’s or other) which one would it be?
Oooh! Now that IS a good question. I’d really love to have a go at reimagining a classic children’s story or maybe a collection of fairy tales.
I’m also a massive fan of Agatha Christie and I think it would be terrific fun to illustrate on of her books too. Maybe Crooked House’ as that’s quite dark and brooding. Or ” And Then There Were None…” as that’s quite creepy.
I’d also love to illustrate ‘Mrs ‘Arris Goes To Paris’ as that would be such fun to do and I love the 1950s and Paris so a combination of the two would be prefect!
Thank you so much Alex, and hurrah for Claude being shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award.
Claude in the Country has been shortlisted in the younger readers category of the 2014 Red House Children’s Book Award. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.
Illustrations & photographs © Alex T. Smith