What was your inspiration for Lottery Boy?
I used to work as a teacher and I overheard a couple of boys talking one day, discussing the lottery and what they would spend their winnings on. They were too young to play and when I asked them what they would do if they won, they said they’d get their parents to claim. Ten years later, I started wondering what a boy would do if he won the lotteryand didn’t have anyone to put in a claim for him.
Did you have any input into the cover of the book? (I am aware that often authors do have no say in this.)
Yes, although Jack Noel who designed the cover made it very easy by coming up with something that I wish I had thought of. The cover gives a glimpse of what it’s like to be twelve or thirteen when you’re between ages really, both a child and a teenager,and that comes out in the combination of hand-drawn lettering and the photo-realistic images on the cover.
Is there a particular character you enjoyed creating?
I think I probably enjoyed writing about the dog Jack(y). I don’t know anything about dogs, so I had fun imagining one that was weird looking and mixed up, a bit like most humans really. I also enjoyed creating Janks. He’s a very bad man but I wanted to avoid the temptation of turning him into some sort of monstrous animal because as the devil says in Faust: man is “far beastlier than any beast.” So that was interesting.
What made you give Bully a dog that would be a huge part of his life? Was this a decision you made straight away?
Yes, I noticed a lot of people on the streets had dogs, especially Bulldog cross-breeds. Anyone who is not on the streets might think: Why bother? Isn’t this just an extra mouth to feed? But sometimes looking after someone or something else is your only way of looking after yourself, and that’s why Jack is important to Bully.
Did you have a writing process plan for Lottery Boy?
Yes, making it up as I went along really. I had a rough idea of the story and wrote it out quite quickly in six months before redrafting it quite slowlyfifteen times or so over a couple of years. I originally imagined it as two books or perhaps even a trilogy. However, the way I’d written the book left it with a hole in the middle and an insubstantial ending. So with the help of my editors, Gill, Lucy and Emily, we changed it. Editors are very good at helping you change things by pointing out what’s definitely wrong and then suggesting things that might be right. But it’s up to you in the end to make it all up.
Who is your favourite author of all time?
I’m torn really. I would have to say Joseph Heller because his humour is so topsy-turvy, especially in his masterpiece Catch 22, about the craziness of World War II. But if I was allowed another author, it would have to be either Tom Wolfe for Bonfire of the Vanities or Elmore Leonard for pretty much everything he’s written.(And maybe John Updike too for his short stories.)
How did you come up with the name Lottery Boy? Did you brainstorm lots of names or did you have the name from the start?
Well, I originally entered into a competition and called the bookThe Boy with the Golden Balls just to get it noticed, really, because over a thousand people enteredThe Times/ChickenhouseChildren’s Fiction competition. It wasn’t a serious title though, so after it didn’t win and I’d reworked it with my agent Zoe, I called it The Ticket, but that was a bit vague and boring. So I wrote out a list (Six Numbers Runningisthe only other title I remember) and I asked my daughter Eve to pick one and she picked Lottery Boy.And Zoe(and Walker Books) liked it too, so that was that.
Did you make a conscious decision to include landmarks in the book or did it just happen?
Yes, I did. I liked the idea of Bully doing a whistle-stop tour of London’s landmarks whilst being chased around town and it’s all fresh and new and strange to him. And I wanted to give the story a sort offairy-tale, surreal quality because after all, he’s won the lottery which is pretty strange and unusual, especially for a homeless boy. I also hadn’t been to most of these places for a while, so it was interesting to see them with fresh eyes from a child’s point of view.
To find out more about Michael and 'Lottery Boy' visit www.walker.co.uk
Come take a look at our Twitter page between the 26th May - 1st June where we are giving away copies of 'Lottery Boy' to two lucky followers! Winners announced Monday 1st June 2015!