Meet Horrid Henry's Creator, Francesca Simon
Kenilworth Books has teamed up with The Albany Theatre in Coventry to bring Horrid Henry creator, Francesca Simon, to Coventry! On 24th March you can join author Francesca Simon to find out what Henry gets up to in his latest mischievous adventures in Up, Up and Away – a brand new collection wickedly funny and totally brilliant stories featuring the inimitable Horrid Henry and containing the 100th Horrid Henry story! Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the series’ publication in 2019, this is a Perfect Peter of an event for Horrid Henry fans of all ages!
Read on to find out what Francesca Simon had to say about Horrid Henry and how she started writing children's stories in advance of her visit to Coventry.
How did you get the idea for Horrid Henry?
I got the idea for Horrid Henry when a friend asked me to write a story about a horrid child. Horrid Henry was born on the spot. I also wanted to write about sibling rivalry and families where one child was considered “perfect” and the other “horrid.”
Is Horrid Henry based on a real child?
No, but I think there’s a bit of Henry and Peter inside everyone.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from things that happen to me, or to people I know, or from my imagination. I think of ordinary situations, like birthday parties or getting nits, and then add a “horrid” twist. So if my son has to have an injection, I think of how Henry would behave.
How long does it take to write a Horrid Henry book?
Around 4 months.
Who is your favourite character?
I like Moody Margaret, because I was bossy like her when I was her age. But of course I love Henry and Peter. And Beefy Bert makes me laugh.
What’s your favourite Horrid Henry story?
I usually like the one I’m writing at the moment the best, but old favourites include “Horrid Henry’s Injection” and “Horrid Henry’s Gets Rich Quick.” I’m scared of injections and it makes me laugh when I read it.
How do you get your characters’ names?
I think of funny adjectives, like “sour” or “rude” and match names to them. I love alliteration and use it as much as possible.
Do you like writing books?
YES! But I hate starting a new book. I am happiest when I am improving my rough drafts.
Where do you write?
On a computer in my very messy office in the attic of my Victorian house in London.
Why did you want to be an author?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and started writing fairy tales when I was 8 years old, so it is never too early to start. I used to be a journalist, but I became an author after my son Joshua was born in 1989. I started to get a lot of ideas —I think because I love reading and I was reading a lot of children’s books to him and I began writing those ideas down. It did take me over a year to have my first book accepted though!
Who is your favourite writer?
My favourite author as a child was Edward Eager, who wrote about magic adventures. I also really liked Beverley Cleary, whose Ramona and Henry Huggins books are published here. My favourite author now is Anthony Trollope, a Victorian novelist who wrote 43 very long books.
Can you give me any writing tips?
Ideas are everywhere, and you must listen out for them. Your stories will be more fun if you give them a twist. So, if you want to write about football, what about an alien football match, or a pets’ football match? It’s always easier to write the beginning and end first, and the middle last. Think of where your character is at the beginning, and what they are like, and how they are different at the end. The middle bit is what changed them. The best way to learn to be a writer is to be a reader.
Have you written any other books?
Yes, my favourites for younger children are HELLO MOON, THE GOAT CAFE, HACK AND WHACK, HELPING HERCULES,
DON’T COOK CINDERELLA, and, for older children, THE SLEEPING ARMY, THE LOST GODS, and a YA book, THE MONSTROUS CHILD, shortlisted for the Costa book prize, and adapted as an opera for the Royal Opera House in 2019.
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