Your new book ‘The Ministry of Suits’ is out now. Could you tell us a little bit about the book for our readers?
The Ministry of Suits is half adventure and half detective story. Jack Pearse is a twelve-year-old boy with an insatiable sense of curiosity. When he notices that the oddball kids from his school are going missing he immediately starts investigating only to find himself plunged into a world where pirates are plotting against the country, unicorns have sinister motives and the dinosaurs aren’t extinct, they’re just hiding.
Jack quickly becomes partners with Trudy, the most terrifying girl in school and they work together to try and figure out what’s really going on. Using the Trudy’s unique skill set, the magical power of clipboards and Jack’s ability to think in circles they quickly make progress and put the pieces of the puzzle together. The only question is, will they manage to save the country in time?
The book is based in the Ulster Museum in Belfast, why did you choose to set your story here?
The book is based on the idea that beneath the surface of the world we live in, there’s something altogether more interesting and fantastic going on. Although the book is probably as far-fetched as it’s possible to get I wanted to try and create a world that felt real. One of the ways I tried to achieve this is to relate the crazy goings-on to very real life experiences. So in the book you’ll find out what wind turbines are really being used for, why you see tankers being driven around with skull and cross-bones signs and why Lion Tamers always seem to use chairs in their acts.
As part of this story telling I wanted the Ministry of SUITs (the organisation Jack and Trudy work for), to be based in a real physical location. I love the idea that some readers may be curious enough themselves to actually go and find the hidden entrance to the Ministry of SUITs which does actually exist in the Ulster Museum. And maybe….just maybe it’s all real…
The two main characters in your book are Jack and Moody Trudy. You described these characters as endlessly curious, nosy and the most terrifying girl in school. Did you base these on any one in particular?
I’d love to pretend that they were based on me. I’d love to pretend that I was as curious as Jack, or as dynamic and cool as Trudy but sadly that just isn’t true. Part of me wishes that if there’d been a mystery at school, I would have been the kind of kid to go investigating. But sadly I wouldn’t, I’d just have sat around making up stories about it instead of actually doing anything.
In many ways Jack and Trudy are the kind of kids that I wish I had been at school.
What would you say is the strangest thing Jack and Moody Trudy have to deal with in the book?
That’s hard to say because they deal with a lot of very odd situations indeed. From discovering how to move impossibly fast, negotiating filing requests with the evil interdimensional being called Cthulhu and even being attacked by ‘stuffed’ animals - the book is full of very strange and unusual things.
I suppose if I had to pick one particularly bizarre incident it would be when they discover that the Tooth Fairy is actually running a company and has a business model. I mean you didn’t think the Tooth Fairy was just collecting all those teeth without making a profit, did you?
Are there any plans for ‘The Ministry of Suits’ part 2?
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, my American publisher have bought the first three books of the series – so the second book is already written! It’s due out in North America in July 2017. We also hope that we’ll be able to get it published in the UK and Ireland as well!
Did you ever think you would be a published author? What did it feel like when you first saw your book on a shops bookshelf?
I’ve always loved books and the only thing I ever really wanted to do in life was write one myself. I don’t know if I ever expected it to come true, but I’m very grateful that it did.
I didn’t feel it was that big a shock when I saw it on the shelves of a bookshop. But I think that’s only because the whole process takes a lot of time. Between writing it, editing it, getting an agent, re-editing it, getting a publisher, re-editing it again, seeing the proofs, getting review copies…by the time you see it in a bookshop it isn’t really a big surprise!
I think the moment that meant to the most to me was when I got the email from my agent Gemma saying that we’d got a publisher. I’d just come out of watching a play in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. I opened the email on my phone and it was one of the best moments in my life. I still remember that moment very clearly. I was there with Tim, one of my best friends and it was great to have someone to share the news with!
If you could give on piece of advice to a young writer what would it be?
Read as much as you can. Then write as much as you can. Then rewrite – even though you really don’t want to. Trust me, it’ll make it better.
Also take other people’s advice. Working with both my agent and my publisher through edits and re-edits made my book much better than the first draft I came up with by myself.
Sometimes it might be difficult to realise, but when people offer advice they aren’t criticising you – they’re trying to help.