'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 21 June 2010

Author Interview: Robin Gold

The hilarious Robin Gold is here at Kids Book Review today. Robin is the author of the Belmont and the Dragon series for children aged 5+. Read more about his books here and watch this space for our review of the latest in the series.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? At the age of eleven I wrote my first ‘novel’. It was composed in longhand with a biro and illustrated by me with my textas. In my first year at high school, Mrs. Brown took me aside and said that I had the makings of a writer. She was the first person in my life to give me encouragement. I dedicated my third Belmont book to her.

I am usually seen sporting a panama hat in the summertime but switch to a fedora in the cooler months. I collect old tea pots and silk neckties and reside in a hundred year old house with my wife, two sons and a gaggle of free loading scrub turkeys.

What genre do you write in? I believe the Belmont books fall into a genre called ‘anachronistic-medieval-fantasy-children’s adventure’, but I may be wrong about that.

What other genres have you written in? I tried writing something serious once but everybody laughed. So now I stick mainly to the genre technically known as ‘funny-stuff’.

Why do you write? My wife makes me.

What do you love about writing for children? I like to write wildly improbable plot lines and create outlandishly off beat characters and so far children have accepted them as believable and real. Children understand that every fantasy world has its own strict rules of logic and as long as the logic is maintained just about anything goes, imagination-wise.

How did the idea for Belmont and the Dragon come about? Mike Zarb, who creates the illustrations for all of the Belmont and the Dragon stories, sent me some wonderful drawings of a dragon, an old witch, some elves and goblins, a beautiful princess and a young chap in a knight costume who carried a toy wooden sword.

Mike more or less dared me to write a story using all the characters he had drawn. I took up Mikes challenge and the result was a tale called Belmont and the Dragon.

We showed the story and Mike’s illustrations to Random House and they asked us to collaborate on a series based on our concept.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? At times it has been difficult to heed that lone, small, stubborn voice within urging me on, saying ‘Keep going, you can make it’ while all around me everything seems to be screaming ‘Give up! You’re wasting your time! It’ll never happen!!!’

What’s a typical writing day? It begins with half a dozen freshly sharpened Staedtler HB pencils and a stack of clean white writing paper. I like to start as early in the day as I can, promising myself a reward of a nice cup of tea and a buttered crumpet if I get in a solid hour’s writing. Several hours and copious gallons of tea later I emerge from a trance like state to discover my pencils are worn to the nub and my stack of paper awash with hieroglyphs.

By a somewhat mysterious and intuitive process I proceed to rewrite, edit, discard and embellish my notes until a narrative begins to take shape. This becomes the starting point for my next day’s writing.

What advice do you have on writing? Don’t listen to well meaning people who try to discourage you from pursuing your passion. You can bet they are not pursuing theirs. Read only the very best authors and set an exceedingly high standard for yourself. Be reliable. And oh yes, make sure you marry somebody independently wealthy.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? Very disappointed.

What books did you read as a child? Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was one of my all time favourites. I loved the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel almost as much as the story itself. I also have fond memories of the Coles Funny Picture Books and A Book for Kids by C.J.Dennis. I was an avid reader of the Sherlock Holmes stories (which I still re-read and enjoy) and had a collection of MAD magazines second to none.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I like to fossick about second hand bookstores. I do most of the cooking for my family and enjoy combing through my many old cookbooks for interesting recipes. I love old movies and listening to jazz. Often, I can be found rummaging in the dusty recesses of junk shops, ever hopeful of stumbling upon an overlooked treasure.

What would be your perfect day? I had a perfect day once. At least this part of it was perfect: I was visiting the city of Bath in Somerset many years ago. I ambled down an ancient lane way and chanced upon a very old Tea Shop. The aroma of baking cakes wafted from within. I entered and found a seat at a polished mahogany table. On my table were fresh flowers set in an English porcelain vase. Soft sunlight poured in through windows half covered with antique lace. Friendly pink faced, apple cheeked elderly ladies in smart aprons brought me perfectly brewed tea in a brown betty. I drank from an old bone china cup and ate moist, buttery cake which one of the ladies had baked on the premises. Somehow this simple, common place experience attained a heavenly perfection.

I’ve always feared that if ever I went searching for that old Tea Shop again it will have vanished, Brigadoon like, into the mist.

What five words best sum you up? An old fashioned story teller.

What’s next for Robin Gold? A cup of tea and a buttered crumpet, then back to work!