In conversation with Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are the Emmy-winning and Bafta-nominated writing partnership behind most of your kids favourite TV shows – Peter Rabbit, Danger Mouse and Shaun The Sheep, to name but a few. Excitingly, they are also currently scripting a new TV show of some of our all time favourite kids lit characters, The Moomins. We can hardly wait! Not happy with conquering the world of TV, this eye-wateringly busy writing duo are a force to be reckoned with in the world of kids books too. If your kids haven't tried their fantastic adventure series, 'Defender of the Realm', we highly recommend it.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Nick Ostler: Apparently my parents thought I should be a bank manager,
because I liked counting my pocket money! But once I had a say in it I
thought I’d prefer to be the next Gerald Durrell or David Attenborough
– but although I’ve kept my interest in the Natural World I was never
good enough at science to do it for a living, sadly.

Mark Huckerby: An actor. It was the only thing I thought I was remotely good
at. I went as far as looking at drama schools but ended up diverting
to the University of Nottingham where I mostly messed around acting
even though it wasn’t my degree.

BCLF: What would you be doing if you weren’t an amazing author/illustrator?

Nick: Just before we decided to give scriptwriting full time a go, I
was applying for Journalism courses (my degree was Politics) and I
think I would have enjoyed that too – it would certainly be an
interesting job to be doing right now!

Mark: Failing as an actor.

BCLF: The best thing about what I do is…

Nick: I could say the wonder of creating stories from my head every
day, but I think I’ll go with a five minute commute with a view of the
South Downs and no boss.

Mark: Getting paid to day dream. I mean, there’s more to writing than
that of course but in a nutshell, that’s what I’m doing. The idea that
my ideas and thoughts have an actual value blows my tiny mind.

BCLF: My favourite word is …

Nick: The End.

Mark: Coffee.

BCLF: My greatest fear is…

Nick: Planes.

Mark: Spiders.

BCLF: My hidden talent is…

Nick: Bird identification.

Mark: Cooking. I make excellent Turkish flat breads.

BCLF: My superpower is…

Nick: Redrafting.

Mark: Procrastination.

BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain?

Nick: I have a new one – The Gorm in Kieran Larwood’s brilliant ‘Podkin’
series – creepy, dark, they really get under your skin – perfect kids’
fantasy villains.

Mark: Mr Victor Hazell from ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ was the
first villain I recall. I distintctly remember being aged eight,
sitting cross-legged in front of my teacher as she read the book and
feeling really angry about him.

BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

Nick: I’d ask Douglas Adams if he hid any unknown manuscripts anywhere
as I’d love to read them.

Mark: Not a question, but I sincerely wish I could have said a
heartfelt thank you to Sheila K McCullagh for helping me learn to
read. I was a (very) late starter but her Tim and the Hidden People
reading scheme not only taught me to read but instilled in me a
life-long love of the fantasy genre and ghost stories.

BCLF: You’re the fantasy festival programmer. Who would you love to see come to Barnes?

Nick: For entertainment value, May Evans (‘Who Let The Gods Out?’), for
inspiration and to make us all better writers, Phillip Pullman and
because I haven’t met him yet and would love to tell him how much I
love his books Kieran Larwood. Maybe they’re coming already, I
don’t know!

Mark: Sarah Waters, Phillip Pullman, Don Winslow…

BCLF: I’m reading…

Nick: Have finally got to ‘Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman – great so far!

Mark: ‘The Light Jar’ by Lisa Thompson.  It’s excellent.

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