How gruesome isThe Lily-Livered Prince going to be compared to the first two books in the series?
The book is set seventy-five years before OsbertThe Avenger and The Woebegone Twins – when the city ofSchwarztgarten was even more gruesome and gory. Prepare for battles and bloodshed!
If you could choose anyone, who would you choose to play Eugene if you turned The Lily-Livered Prince into a play?
That’s a tough question because Prince Eugene is only sixteen at the beginning of the book and most of the actors I know are a lot older and gnarlierthan that. So I’ll cheat and pick another character instead. I’ve worked with the brilliant Bill Nighy a couple of times and I think he’d be perfect to play Kristifan Von Hoffmeyer, the child-despising narrator of the book.
TheSchwartzgarten Tales have a few ‘unlikely heroes’ in them –what is it about this character type that most appeals to you?
I’ve always liked writing weirdoes – but then I don’t know many normal people! Goody-two-shoes characters should, in my opinion, be gathered up and sent off to the glue factory. Show me a character who likes rainbows and magical unicorns and I will show you a bucket to be sick into.
Who is your favourite character from the Schwartzgarten Tales series so far and why?
I’m very fond of Gutterfink in The Lily-Livered Prince – but I can’t tell you too much about him/her/it without giving the plot away! I’m also rather attached to the devious Olga Van Veenen in The Woebegone Twins– but I wouldn’t want to be adopted by her.
Your darker style has been compared to MervynPeake by some fans. Who are your biggest literary influences?
I’ve always loved Edward Gorey, because his books are so deliciously sinister. When I was a boy I was an Enid Blytonfan and read The Famous Five books over and over again -not because of the adventures, but because of the food. I was a bit obsessed with food, coming from a baking family. It helps me to write characters if I can imagine the sort of food they might like to eat - chocolate cake or stewed cat, for example.
Your stories are prettysinister - which of course we love and so do your readers! But have you ever had complaints from parents or teachers who really didn’t ‘get it’?
Most children are bloodthirsty little beasts at heart and often tell me stories that are far more sinister than anything you might find in my books. Some parents and teachers forget what it was like to be a child and that’s a pity. I once heard that somebody was trying to ban OsbertThe Avenger in New Zealand. I can’t imagine a greater compliment. I might even send her the other Schwarztgarten books in the hope that she tries to ban those too!
Which have you found the most difficult to write –plays, novels or radio dramas?
Plays are more difficult to write than books when I’m writing plays. And books are more difficult to write than plays when I’m writing books.
What do you have planned next and how far do you hope to go with the series? Are you hoping for a small cult collection or an ongoing series with a big following?
The fourth book in the Tales From Schwartzgarten series – Marius and the Band of Blood - comes out early next year. Hopefully there will be another three hundred books in the series, each more popular than the last, until I am eventually crowned king of the world and get to live in a palace made of solid gold.
We’ve noticed your bio includes a few odd hobbies, including collecting ancient relics as a child. What is the strangest thing you have ever found or owned?
I bought a Victorian rat garrotte last year – perhaps a peculiar thing for a vegetarian to own. It’s just for display though, unless any pesky little rat tries to get in my way (rats, you have now been warned). I’ve also got the skull of a crow on my desk, which I love very much. When it was delivered it still had the brain inside, which had to be scooped out with a spoon. Best to avoid my house at dinner time, you never know what might be served up.
You're stranded on a desert island, you’re only allowed three books, which would you choose?
The Code Of The Woosters– by PG Wodehouse (very funny)
The GashlycrumbTinies – By Edward Gorey (very sinister)
Desert Islands and How to Escape Them – by Theodore Vale (very useful)