In conversation with Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby
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.
BCLF: My greatest fear is…
BCLF: My hidden talent is…
Nick: Bird identification.
Mark: Cooking. I make excellent Turkish flat breads.
BCLF: My superpower is…
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’
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
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.