Goodnight Digger has always been an avid favourite in our house. In fact we incorporate the opening page ‘It’s time for bed, turn down the light, let’s tidy up and say goodnight’ into our bedtime routine to encourage the boys to tidy their toys up before their bath. So I was really pleased when Michelle Robinson, creator of ‘Goodnight Digger’ agreed to an interview as part of my ‘Getting to know’ series, where we discussed the inspiration behind becoming a children’s author, the importance of reading to children and future plans.
- Why do you feel it is important for parents and guardians to read with their children?
It’s fun to get close, suspend reality for a short while and share in a story. There isn’t the same close contact and opportunity to wonder when watching TV, and books don’t have distracting diversions like iPads do. Sharing books from day one also gives children a head start toward strong literacy skills.
- What are your fondest memories of books and reading?
I loved browsing in the cellar of the local second hand shop for old Enid Blyton books. I pretty quickly graduated to Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and anything else that caught my imagination. I remember taking home a Biggles book. Can’t remember reading it, though…
- What inspired you to become a writer?
The inspiration to become a writer comes from reading great stories and admiring the people who wrote them. I was particularly taken with Roald Dahl.
- Who is your favourite children’s author?
Maybe A.A. Milne or Dr. Seuss.
- What has influenced your work?
My grandparents had a farm, it was a fun place to play, there was a certain amount of freedom and discovery – kittens in hay barns and the marvel of green goose poo. It was scary at times, too – angry dogs, plucking sheds and emergency vet visits. There was always a lot to wonder about and the adults were usually too busy to answer questions. I guess that did something for the imagination.
- Out of your own children’s books, which is your favourite and why?
Always the most recent thing I’m publishing plus whatever I’m currently working on. So, ‘Monkey’s Sandwich’ which just came out with HarperCollins. It’s illustrated by Emily Fox, it’s a very cute rhyming story for younger children, plus an older series that I’m beavering away at and I can’t say too much about.
- You work with different illustrators for your books, do you work with different people for any particular reason?
I don’t have a great deal of input in who I work with, but I have no complaints. I’ve been very lucky in all of my pairings. I work with experienced editors who have strong ideas about who would do a good job of any particular text. As my output is pretty high I could never work with just one illustrator; they’d never be able to keep up or have time to work on anything else. They’d hate me! I’m exceptionally lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many talented artists.
- Do you have much of an input with the illustrations?
I try and keep my oar out as much as possible. I write minimal directions in my manuscripts, usually just enough to make sense of what the text says (in picture books what the text says is often in direct opposition to what the picture does). I don’t describe characters or settings, I leave as much as possible to the illustrator. It seems to me that otherwise I would be holding their wrist and forcing them to draw a certain thing, which I would hate for someone to do to my writing.
- Do you ever read your own books to your children?
If they ask me to, or sometimes if I want to test a first draft on them before I send it to my agent – yes. I always feel horribly self conscious doing it.
- What are your plans for the future?
I turn 40 later this year – how did that happen? I’d like to relax more, appreciate the everyday a little more and write something astoundingly brilliant. Mostly I’d like to stay in good health for a while. I realise those are hopes rather than plans, but I’d rather it that way. Less pressure. I have 13 picture books coming out in 2017, so it’s probably best that I try and stay calm.
If you would like to be featured in the ‘Getting to know’ series, please contact me through my contact page.