Interview with Andrew McDonald

Friday, November 27, 2009

Andrew McDonald is the author of The Greatest Blogger in the World which I reviewed here. He also proclaimed August 10th as National Take a Skull to Work or School Day (which is sure to catch on next year). Check out the Greatest Blogger in the World website and Andrew's very funny blog.

1. What inspires your writing?

My main source of inspiration is jellybeans. This is because I reward myself with a jellybean at the end of every good writing session. If I were to name another inspiration it would probably be the amazing writing done by other people - from songwriters like Tom Waits to TV writers like Joss Whedon to novelists like Neil Gaiman. To write anything as half as good as any of these people would be unbelievable. So yes, other writers and jelly beans.

2. What three words would you use to describe yourself? And what three words would you use to describe your writing?

To describe myself I would use the words ‘simple’, ‘complex’ and ‘contradictory’.

To describe my writing I would use the words ‘amusing’, ‘to’ and ‘me’ – as in I only write stuff that I find amusing and/or interesting. It is important for writers (and anyone I guess) to interest themselves. You could call this narcissism, but it’s also a good way for me to double-check that my writing is on track.

3. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...

…like a boxing match: I lasted the fight and in the end I got out of the boxing ring, but there was trauma throughout and I got some long-lasting scars.

But to move away from the martial arts metaphor, teenagedom was ok, it just took ages before it was over. There’s a reason people like to think of themselves as being ‘kids at heart’ and not ‘adolescents at heart’.

4. Have you always wanted to write for young people? Or did you set out to become a brain surgeon and wind up stumbling down this path? Was the road to publication rocky for you?

Originally I set out to be a journalist-writer-man but I kept describing sports stars as ‘jumpy-muscle-men’ and the Prime Minister as the ‘boss-of-the-land-man’ so I didn’t last. Plus, a lot of the journalism I was involved with was essentially telling the same story over and over and over again, with minimal changes to names and settings.

Enrolling in RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing diploma was the turning point. I could write the stories that I wanted to and the course introduced me to important things that writers need like editing, workshopping, writerly friends and contacts. The Greatest Blogger in the World was born out of the writing I did in that course and learning how and when I write best.

5. Who are your favourite authors and which novels are your all-time favourites?

Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman and Ursula Dubosarsky rate among some of my favourites names for people as well as some of my favourite authors.

Some of my all-time favourite novels at the moment would be Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Holes by Louis Sachar and Dracula (it’s a lot more than just The First Vampire Book) by Bram Stoker.

6. Complete this sentence: My life outside of writing is...

...spending obligatory time at work, spending obligatory time with family members, doing my tax, paying my bills, cleaning the toilet and shampooing my leg hairs – all tasks which must be completed before I can sit down and read.

7. If you were a superhero, what would be your name, power and costume?

I would be a superhero who has the power to stop people being embarrassed after they sneeze in public. We’ve all been there – a big KATCHOOO on a train turns your nose into a dripping faucet and you start pretending to stretch so you can get your sleeves up close to your nose. If I could remove that awful self-awareness/sneeze denial from the world I would do it. And I don’t think I’d have a name or a costume because once solved I wouldn’t want anyone to know about the terrible problem that used to exist. Because I’m just that selfless.

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