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Guest Author - Dave Cousins

Dave's books have been hailed as "teen realism with humour and heart." 15 Days without a Head was a Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Published in over ten languages across the world, 15 Days has been awarded the Premio Andersen in Italy and the SCBWI Crystal Kite for the UK and Europe. Waiting for Gonzo won the 2014 Grampian Children's Book Award, and has its own original soundtrack album, complete with accompanying music videos! Charlie Merrick's Misfits in Fouls, Friends & Football has been described as "football Tom Gates style" and sees Dave return to his first love: drawing and writing about the beautiful game.

Originally from Birmingham, Dave now spends his days writing and drawing in an attic somewhere just outside the M25. He also visits schools and libraries all over the country, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and UK author collective, The Edge.


Your new book ‘Charlie Merrick’s Misfits in – Fouls, Friends & Football’ is out at the start of May. What inspired you to write a football themed novel?

Some of the first stories I wrote were for a football comic I drew when I was growing up. I've always been a big fan of the game, and football provides a great stage for drama: two opposing sides, a race against time, David and Goliath battles, triumph, comedy, disappointment ... So when my publisher asked if I'd be interested in writing and drawing a football story, I jumped at the chance.~

Do you support football? If so who do you support?

I am a lifelong Birmingham City fan. My grandad grew up in the street next to the ground, and my other grandad was a huge Blues fan, so there was no escape for me!


Is any of the characters in your book based on anyone in real life? If so who?

Charlie's hero, Fabrice Roux, was inspired by Fabrice Muamba who played for Birmingham, Bolton and Arsenal, until a heart-condition ended his career in 2012. Charlie himself is named after Gil Merrick—legendary Birmingham and England goalkeeper in the 1950s. In fact, most of Charlie's teammates take their surnames from a 1920s Birmingham team!


You regularly visit schools around the UK, can you tell us a little bit more about what you do when on a school visit?

When I visit schools I explain my slightly unusual journey to becoming an author—from childhood ambitions to be Batman, drawing comics, and my time as a minor rock star, to learning how to sleep-type in the attic! I also talk about the inspiration for the books and discuss how I developed the ideas. In addition, I offer writing and comic drawing workshops.

You have a long list of nominations for your other book ‘Waiting for Gonzo’, congratulations! Out of all of the nominations which would you like to win the most and why?

Thank you! I'm always delighted to be nominated for an award, and actually winning is a great honour. In fact, I am very happy to announce that Waiting for Gonzo recently won the 2014 Grampian Children's Book Award! The Grampian is voted for by teenage readers, so for Gonzo to be chosen by the very people I am writing for, means a great deal indeed.


Have you always been interested in writing?

In various forms—yes. The first things I tried were songs for an imaginary band, then I wrote and drew my own comics. Looking back, I realise that I’ve been scribbling things into a notebook for most of my life. It was a long time before I attempted writing a novel though!


Do you have any other hobbies other than writing and reading?

I go to see Birmingham City play whenever I can, but I’m not sure you’d call that a hobby! I'm a big music fan, and I still pick up my guitar most days. I like films too, and drawing. When I'm writing I spend a lot of time sitting down, so I try to go running every morning and swimming when I can.


If you could give our young writers one writing tip what would that be?

Read a lot of different books, and write regularly. If you can write something every day you'll develop a good writing habit and be surprised by how quickly the pages build up. Reading widely will help you absorb the ways stories are constructed and the flow and rhythm of language. You'll also learn from other writers mistakes!


If you could pick just three books which would they be and why?

The Machine-Gunners by Robert Westall. My favourite book of all time. This was the story that made me realise how brilliant books could be. Robert Westall is a superb storyteller and a great writer. If you want to learn from a master, give one of his books a go.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I'm a big fan of stories told with words and pictures, and Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best examples of character creation and storytelling you’ll find in print. Featuring the adventures of six-year-old Calvin and his (sometimes) stuffed tiger, Hobbes—these stories are a witty, heart-warming and thought-provoking examination of what it means to be human (or feline!).

Holes by Louis Sachar. I'm really struggling to pick just one other title as there are so many great books being written for teens and young adults at the moment. But given that this is an interview for young writers I have chosen a book that I think is an example of great storytelling and writing.

What are your plans/hopes for the future in your career?

This is my dream job, so I’d be very happy being able to continue writing books and visiting schools and libraries. With each book I try to improve, so would hope that my best stories are still to come! I've really enjoyed the opportunity to be author /illustrator on my Charlie Merrick books, so it would be nice to continue working in different ways.


Thank you for inviting me to be interviewed for Young Writers. Good luck to all the young word wranglers out there. Keep writing and keep reading!

Best wishes,

Dave Cousins