Just Imagine: You began your working life in television & journalism. How did you make the switch to writing novels & in particular children’s books?
Ross Welford: Unemployment, I find, is a powerful incentive to write. My TV career had been ailing for some years: in hindsight I was good at certain aspects of the job, but not good enough all round to ensure I was always in demand. I was experiencing longer gaps between less-satisfying jobs. Eventually, a spell living in Sweden due to a family move meant I couldn’t work in TV at all, so I had run out of excuses to write a book!
JI: You’ve had amazing success already, with your debut novel Time Travelling With a Hamster being shortlisted for numerous awards in 2016/17 (Congratulations, by the way!). Do you feel any additional pressure for your subsequent novels to do equally as well?
RW: A little, but I try to remind myself that just having a book published would have satisfied me a couple of years ago, regardless of any awards. There was no pressure at all writing Hamster – I just did it to see if I could do it. I was writing What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible at the height of the hoopla surrounding Hamster and it was quite distracting.
JI: Do you have any special rituals when writing or a particular place you like to write?
RW/; I try not to. I hate all that “I have to have my special ‘writing mug’ and be facing the prevailing wind” stuff. In my (comparatively limited) experience, those sort of rituals are avoided by most people who actually write for a living. That said, I like solitude and silence, but I don’t rely on it.
JI: What were your favourite books as a child and what sort of books do you like to read for pleasure as an adult?
RW: I have three older siblings, so our house was full of reading matter. But not just fiction books: I devoured comics like The Beano and The Beezer and stuff like Look & Learn and The Guinness Book Of World Records. I read exactly none of the “classic” children’s books (and still think they’re mostly overrated) preferring Enid Blyton and Anthony Buckeridge. Now I’ll read anything, almost literally, but I’m impatient. I chucked Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls recently after about five chapters. Mannered and slow.
JI: Can you tell us a little about your new book The 1,000 Year Old Boy?
RW: If my stories have a theme, it’s probably “the impossible becomes possible”. With this one, the title came first and it was a devil of a job to work out exactly how much of Alfie’s very long story needed to be in the book! Thanks to ancient – and long-lost – alchemy Alfie stopped ageing when he was eleven and has successfully lived “below the radar” for centuries. But when a massive tragedy (no spoilers!) threatens to expose his secret, he must learn to cope with the 21st century, and – with a pair of new friends – hunt down the remedy for his agelessness. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s very exciting and it’s my favourite so far.
JI: And finally, are you working on anything else at the moment or are you taking a well-deserved rest?!
RW: A rest? I wish! Book no.4 is yelling in my ear, demanding to be written and instead I’m answering this questionnaire. I am very easily distracted! Gotta go…
Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.