Interview with Michael Morpurgo
Where do you get your ideas for books from?
From all around me. Places, people, stories I hear, little happenings, big happenings, history. I keep my eyes and ears open, my heart fresh.
How many books have you written?
Over one hundred. Private Peaceful was the hundredth. Sound a lot but that’s fat ones, thin ones. All sorts.
Where do you write?
On my bed where I’m most comfortable. I pile the pillows up behind me, settle back and write by hand with my exercise book on my knees.
Are the stories true?
With each one there is an element of truth. I weave different truths into the same story to make another kind of truth. So with Kensuke’s Kingdom, there was a Japanese soldier who decided to stay behind on an island after WW2, and people do hunt orangutans, kill the parents and kidnap their young, and people do sail around the world on yachts, and sometimes they fall overboard . . .
What is the favourite book that you have written?
The Butterfly Lion or Kensuke’s Kingdom or War Horse or Private Peaceful.
Who’s your favourite author?
Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Rudyard Kipling (The Just So Stories) and Ted Hughes (The Iron Man).
How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on how well I’m writing, how well it’s flowing. But the most important part of my story inventing when I try to weave the story together, do my research and find the right voice for the story. Once I begin writing, I write very fast and will finish a book in two or three months. Then revising it might take another month. So, on average, a novel takes upwards of 6 months to write.
How do you choose your illustrators?
By getting to know them. I’ve worked for many years now with Michael Foreman. Indeed, he’s suggested many stories to me: Farm Boy, Billy the Kid, Arthur, High King of Britain. We really do spark off each other. I’ve worked very well too with Quentin Blake, Christian Birmingham, Tony Ross, Shoo Rayner and many others. I usually spend several months dreaming it up in my head – I call it my ‘dreamtime’,ing. The publishers sometimes help in choosing who should illustrate what. They know many more illustrators than I do, and can visualise a book better than me. But I know what I like.