This is your fourth book. How did you come about writing together?
Philip: We met at the Edinburgh International Book Festival six years ago, and just got on so well that eventually we decided we should try making books together. So we came up with the idea for Oliver and the Seawigs, and went looking for a publisher. Luckily Oxford University Press decided to publish it, and they offered us a deal for four books.
Funfair Repair is based on Funfair Moon. Are you a fan of fairground rides? Why?
Sarah: I love them! Going to Disneyland when I was 8 was by far the best thing that had ever happened to me in my life. What I really loved were the fairgrounds where someone would pay my admission and then I could run around all day and go on as many rides as I wanted, not the ones where you’d look up and think, is one ride really worth five bucks? (And my parents would decide no, it wasn’t.) I burned with a naughty-feeling joy for this book, thinking, I could go to Disneyland Paris as RESEARCH: Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion. My 8-year-old self would have thought I have the coolest job in the world, or impressed that I had somehow been clever enough to trick people into letting me do this.
What inspired you to write Funfair Repair?
Sarah: Two things, I think. The first is that, as a kid, I was always trying to make funfairs out of basic LEGO and my creations never amounted to much. I thought, as an adult, I could do a lot better job drawing funfair rides, and getting Philip to write about them. You can see a glimpse in the story of the miniature funfair rides Emily builds in her bedroom. And the second thing was that I’ve read a lot of stories about funfairs and circuses that are dark and menacing; adults writing about them often seem to like the gritty behind-the-scenes reality or clownish horror elements. I hated those kinds of stories when I was a kid, I didn’t want to go to awful funfairs, I wanted a book to transport me to the best funfair with the most awesome rides in the universe. And Philip set off on it!
Are there any plans for a fifth book? If so do you have any ideas about what it be about?
Philip: We definitely want to keep working together. We have a whole bunch of ideas we’d like to try, so now we have to sit down and decide which one to do next, and whether it will be the same length and style as the first four, or whether we want to change things a bit.
What’s it like to work together?
Philip: The working together bit isn’t really like working at all. I visit Sarah in London, or she comes down to see me on Dartmoor, and we talk through the ideas until we have a story loosely roughed out and some notions of what the characters will look like. Then I go away and write it, and Sarah gets to work on the pictures (which take a LOT more time than the words). But we phone each other and e-mail a lot while we’re working, so it’s a lot more fun than just working alone would be.
Sarah: I used to illustrate books for writers I hadn’t even met, and it was quite a lonely way of working. It’s so much more fun coming up with story ideas with a friend.
Have you always wanted to be a children’s author?
Philip: I always wanted to be an author (or an illustrator, or an actor). I didn’t particularly set out to write children’s books, that just sort of happened, but I’m very glad it did, because to talk with Sarah about the illustrations and sometimes help her with the rough sketches, and then when the book is finished we go round performing at book festivals, which is enough like acting that I feel as if I’ve ended up fulfilling all my ambitions.
Sarah: When I was nine, I wanted to be a mermaid. When I was 12, I wanted to be an archaeologist JUST LIKE INDIANA JONES. I actually picked my university because of its excellent archaeology department but it turned out I really just liked Egyptian tomb paintings, I didn’t want to spend months carefully digging up and cataloguing a rotten fireplace lintel that was probably never that fancy in the first place.
What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
Philip: Lots of charging around doing Jinks and O’Hare shows. And I have a book for slightly older readers coming out in October, Black Light Express, which also features aliens, but is slightly more serious (and doesn’t have any pictures).
Sarah: Yes, much wearing of big hats! And I also have a picture book with Alan MacDonald coming out, called The Prince of Pants (about pants, with some silly-looking corgis thrown in).
How would you describe Funfair Repair in one sentence?
Sarah: Funfair Moon runs smoothly thanks to Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair, and young Emily would REALLY like to be one of their engineers but she doesn’t get a chance until everything on the planet starts going disastrously wrong.
If you could each give a young aspiring author one piece of advice what would it be?
Philip: Read all the books you can, lots and lots of different things, and when you find books you enjoy try to think why you enjoy them, and what makes them work. And write lots of stories of your own. Like everything, writing is something you need to practise.
Sarah: Make lots of drawings, at least one every day, and post them on your blog. You’ll find that drawings can spark all sorts of interesting story ideas.