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  • About Author

Meet Edgar. He’s determined to train his new puppy. Sit. Stay. Fetch. What could go wrong? It’s just that Edgar’s dog happens to be an octopus. A particularly brilliant octopus at that. Meet Jarvis. Edgar’s life is about to change forever.

Martin McKenna

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

I was born in London, England. Nowadays I live in a little village in deep, dark, rural Lincolnshire.

Where did you go to school?
I went to a horrible inner London comprehensive.

Did you have a nickname?
Not any that are repeatable here!

What were you like in school?

In a variety of ways I fear I was a little bit too smart for my own good.

What is the naughtiest thing you did?

Ran away a lot!

What was your favourite book growing up?
My favourite was probably Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs, and I still have my original first edition. I also loved the Willy the Kid books by Leo Baxendale and still have those, too.

Who is your favourite children’s author?

Wow, that’s hard!  Wildcard, I’ll say Herge (Georges Remi, creator of Tintin) but that’s mostly for the artwork!

What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
Sushi/Yellow/Withnail & I or Rushmore or John Carpenter’s The Thing. If only there was a movie about food colouring.

Who inspired you to write/illustrate?
With my recent picture books, there are so many creators of great picture books that have inspired me to try to follow them; all sorts of folk from Edward Gorey to Oliver Jeffers.

My earliest inspiration were UK comic book artists in the 1970s, particularly John Bolton and his House of Hammer strips, which left me gobsmacked at a young age, along with the artists working in the comic 2000AD.

How did you get started?

I’d written a few non-fiction books about art subjects previously, but my wonderful publisher Dyan Blacklock encouraged me to not only illustrate books for children but to try my hand at writing them as well, and she’s provided as much support in this endeavour as I could hope to receive.

I began producing artwork for small press magazines in the 1980s that were part of the fandom surrounding weird fiction and role-playing games. This soon led to professional commissions from games companies such as Games Workshop and children’s publisher Puffin.

How old were you?
My first published book as an author was in 2004, so that would be at the ripe old age of thirty-five!

Why did you want to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, love using words and have always dabbled with nonsense storytelling and rambling creative missives to friends. Expressing myself through my artwork has always taken the lead, but in the background I’ve always written as well, just never anything very structured. But now with my picture books, I’m finally revealing much more of my natural humour through my stories. So being a writer in this context allows a lot more control and personality to show through.

Why did you want to be an illustrator?

Surely, I thought, there’s nothing better than to be your own boss, pursuing your creativity full time and spending your days drawing and painting? Thirty years on, I reckon I was mostly right

How do you think up ideas?

I’ve no idea! Ideas are popping up and flying around all the time. The hard bit is how to capture them and join them together into something tangible.

Inspiration for artwork can come from everything and everywhere, and from all kinds of memories and frames of reference, but specifically the ideas usually spring from the story I’m illustrating. Best of all is when writing and artwork develop together and ideas blossom between the two.

Do you have a special place where you write/illustrate?
Usually write in bed! Writing tends to go between the bedroom and my studio, where scribbled notes are written up and clarified, and combined with drawings.

Illustration all takes place in my studio, which is currently a downstairs room in my house. I’m very lucky to have lovely views of fields with horses, and to be surrounded by trees with a wonderful array of birds that I feed at the door next to my desk. Pheasants peck at the glass to be fed, and they enter into a staring contest with my border collie, Nell.

What is the best thing about being a writer/illustrator?

Having the freedom to shape a story all of one’s own making.

Illustrating allows me to engage with my imagination as much as I want, as everything I see and do, and dream, can feed into my work. I also love the process of how a project reaches completion and, with any luck, will make its way out into the world for others to enjoy.

Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as a writer/illustrator?
Too many to list. The silly things tend to happen at public events.

Funny: At a big games convention, my drawing demo was surrounded by a heaving scrum of enthusiastic young fans. It’d been relentlessly busy for hours, and all the while a small boy had been standing at the corner of my table, quietly drawing. I decided to finally have a break, and invited him to take my seat. It’s amusing to think that for an hour or so, visitors would have seen this little chap sitting under the sign with my name on it, and been taken aback at how incredibly young I was.

Embarrassing: At a launch for a new boardgame in a department store, I sat next to the game’s designer as part of a signing. The director’s chair I was sitting in cracked and collapsed, in front of the big queue of parents and children.

What do you do when you are not writing/illustrating?
In theory, writing the stuff that I’ll be illustrating next! In practise, I’m either looking after my young son Cormac, or out with Nell, or working in the garden. When I get the chance, I also like climbing Scottish mountains and tinkering with my Land Rover.

What would you have chosen to be if you were not a writer/illustrator?
I’d always wanted to be a zoo keeper. Mostly, I think, so that I could wear green overalls and get to scrub a tapir.

Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
I’d spend an evening with Peter Cushing.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

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