A while back my friend Lari Don mentioned me in her blog called The Next Big Thing. This is a sort of game invented by another author, in which we each take a turn answering a set of questions about our next book or creative project, and then we list five other authors whose work we admire.
Each of those five authors does the same thing, linking to the blogs of five more authors, and all of them link to five more authors… and before you know it, there are thousands of us talking about the Next Big Thing! At some point we’ll run out of authors, but in the meantime, here are my answers to those Next Big Questions:
What is the working title of your next creative endeavour?
I’m currently working on Pink! the Musical, based on my best-known picture book (illustrated by the talented Margaret Chamberlain).
Where did the idea come from?
The original book was inspired by my daughter, who came up with the concept of a penguin who turns pink. She had no more story than that, but I thought Pink! was a brilliant title for a book and set about writing it immediately. The idea of turning it into a musical came when I was listening to an interview with Sir Tim Rice (lyricist for many celebrated musicals). He said that not many people were writing original musicals these days, and I suddenly thought, WHY NOT?
Give a synopsis of the story.
Patrick the penguin, teased and taunted for being pink, swims all the way to Africa in search of other pink birds. He soon discovers that he can’t do anything flamingos can do and that penguins, whatever their colour, belong at the south pole. He gets a hero’s welcome from his friends who have missed him and are amazed to hear about his exotic travels. His pinkness long forgotten, Patrick is home at last.
How will Pink! the Musical be produced?
Thanks to a generous grant from Creative Scotland, the musical will be produced by the Hopscotch Theatre Company which has been bringing high quality pantomimes and children’s theatre to schools across Scotland for over 20 years. I have been working with their expert manager Susan McGregor, experienced director Ross Stenhouse and talented musical director Alan Orr to create a 40-minute show for children aged 4-7. Professional set and costume designers will soon get working on puffy penguin suits and antarctic scenery. The show will be toured in 80 primary schools across Scotland starting in April 2013.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters?
This production will have three actors, two male and one female, to play six parts: Patrick, his two friends Arthur and Lulu, his Mum and Dad and Doctor Black. Hopscotch Theatre have all sorts of talented Scottish actors to choose from, and I’m sure they will have brilliant singing voices. If Pink were a West End or Broadway musical I would choose Marcus Brigstocke to play Patrick!
How long did it take you to write the manuscript?
The original picture book took several weeks of thought and redrafting, and the musical script will go through three drafts before it is ready to go to rehearsal. Transferring the picture book text to drama dialogue has been easier than I imagined. It was hugely helpful to go through the first draft with Ross Stenhouse and Lynsey Murdoch to get a sense of how the story could be best transferred to the stage. I have been really impressed by the talent and professionalism of the Hopscotch team, so I’m delighted that they agreed to embark on this project with me!
What else about the project might pique your reader’s interest?
The main purpose of Pink! the Musical is to bring an important message to young children (in a fun and entertaining way) that we are all “different” in one way or another and that we should treat each other with kindness and respect.
Now, here are a few more authors of note:
Teresa Flavin began as a fine artist and picture book illustrator, but recently discovered she has a brilliant talent for telling a gripping story! Her first book, The Blackhope Enigma, and its sequel The Crimson Shard are both published by Templar Books (UK) and Candlewick Press (US) and have been hugely popular. Watch for a third book in the series very soon…
Sara Pinto is another brilliant author/illustrator with a distinctive style and lots of quirky ideas. After publishing a number of beautiful ABC and counting books, she collaborated with Beatrice Colin to write a comical chapter book, My Invisible Sister, and produced a series of animated shorts called Quiet Is… for Disney Kids.
Janis Mackay is a Scottish writer and storyteller whose first book Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest won the Floris Books Kelpies Prize in 2009. Two further Magnus Fin books followed and she has a new book coming out this spring called The Accidental Time Traveller. But I should let her tell you about that!
Cathy MacPhail is a force of nature. Her boundless imagination and huge enthusiasm for sharing stories makes her a big hit at her many school visits and festival appearances. She is particularly drawn to ghostly and suspenseful plots, and her Tyler Lawless series, about a girl who sees dead people, is excellent. She is an inspiration!
Theresa Breslin is another brilliant writer of award-winning historical fiction for teens. She’s written over 30 books, including Divided City which was adapted for the stage and performed to huge acclaim at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Her first book, Simon’s Challenge, was filmed for television, and Whispers in the Graveyard won the highest honour in the UK for children’s writing, a Carnegie Medal. To top it all, (like all the other writers on my list) she is a fantastic lady!