We Sat Down For a Chat...with Dave Shelton
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie 2013 and has also been shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Children's Book Award. It is a lovely (and funny) storybook with some gorgeous illustrations and a fantastic cover. We're delighted to host its author, Dave Shelton, on our blog today. He is very funny.
M: I’ve heard that you have a cat whose name is too stupid to reveal in public. Is that the case for the boy and the bear in the boat too (because neither of their names are revealed)? And of course, who named your cat?
Dave: The cat was named by my partner's daughter and her dad. I never really considered giving names to the boy and the bear, I just always thought of them as "the boy" and "the bear". It wasn't a particularly thought out decision, so far as I can remember, it just felt like the right thing. The bear has done a few school visits though (including one to Australia) and a lot of schoolchildren have suggested names for him.
M: Like the bear in your novel, imagine you have a selection of sandwiches in your lunchbox. What would be your favourite fillings? And your worst?
Dave: Sandwiches are great aren't they? I'm a very limited cook but I like to believe I make a pretty good sandwich. I think the fishfinger sandwich is a desperately underrated landmark on the culinary landscape, so that's certainly one of my favourites. That said, you really want a fishfinger sandwich to be served up freshly made and hot, so for a lunchbox I'd maybe plump for salami and cream cheese, or ham cheese and chutney. As for worst ... I remember a fishpaste sandwich from my childhood that I really didn't get on with at all.
M: If you discovered that you were not lost in the middle of nowhere, where would you like to be?
Dave: I haven't really travelled outside of the UK very much (or very well) so all my favourite places are in this country. Happily, I like Cambridge, where I live, very much but the one thing it lacks is the sea. I love the sea. I like to swim in it when the temperature isn't absolutely life-threatening, but otherwise I just like to be near it. It's very calming. I love A L Kennedy's quote: "No one should go to church - take them all to the seaside, do them good." And my favourite bits of seaside are in North Norfolk (Holkham Beach is particularly fine), so I'd most likely go there.
M: The bear in your novel has a little ritual he likes to practice at 4 o’clock. Do you have any routine rituals?
Dave: Well, I certainly drink a great deal of tea, but that's more a compulsion than a ritual. I don't think I do have any rituals really, but maybe I do and I'm just not able to spot them. I certainly have a few habits (and most of them bad ones) but I'm a bit too disorganised to be ritualistic. Oh, apart from ... whenever I read or hear the word seal I have to do my renowned impression of a seal. And if I hear the word phenomena I have to sing do doo be-do-do, but everyone does that don't they?
M: Sure, Dave, of course they do!???
M: Have you ever found a message in a bottle?
Dave: Ah, now, yes I have. Or at least somebody in our family did back when I was ... ooh, I'm not sure how old, maybe eleven or twelve? I think either I or my younger brother found it. As I recall, all it had in it was a name and address (and I can't remember for the life of me whereabouts it had come from). It was me that wrote back. I think all I said was, hey, we found your bottle, more or less. But I got a reply anyway. All I can remember now is that the chap who had sent it described himself as "of the grandfather generation", and he had quite spindly handwriting. If I replied again then I can't have been very interesting because that was the last I heard from him. But then any more correspondence was only ever going to be a progression of disappointing normality compared to the initial thrill of finding the bottle in the first place. Hmm ... I think next time I'm at the seaside I'll have to send one in the hope that someone else can have that.
M: If you were the captain of someone’s journey, what ‘on-board entertainment’ would you offer?
Dave: Books, comics, drawing paper and pens, and Radio4. And I might talk to them (though I wouldn't claim that that's always entertaining).
M: Are you good at navigation?
Dave: Hah! No, I have a hopeless sense of direction and very shaky map-reading skills. It's a wonder I can find my way home.
M: Is there anything else you are bursting to tell us?
Dave: Yes, I'd like to share my philosophy for life, which is this:
It's never too late for breakfast.
Also, I'd like to share someone else's philosophy for life. John Finnemore is a comedy writer and performer whose Radio shows I greatly admire and in one of his programmes he summed up his guidelines for a good life as:
"Be kind. Have fun."
Which pretty much covers it, I think.
M: I might just have some breakfast now. Anyone want to share it :)
Dave Shelton is also a cartoonist, comicker and illustrator. Check him out here.