Snot, slime and swampfish sandwiches..! To celebrate the launch of the spectacularly silly SMALL!, Hannah Moffatt and I chat all about the inspiration behind the wonderful Harvey Small, our strangest google searches, debut author advice, the ultimate dinner party guest list and more!
SMALL!, published by Everything With Word, is out 16th June 2022 and available from Bookshop UK here.
Congratulations on the publication of your debut children’s book SMALL! (Everything With Words, 2022) Hannah! For any readers yet to embark on your giant adventure, can you give us a little taste of what’s in store?
Thank you! And, of course. When poor Harvey has a run of bad luck at the local schools, his mum pops him on a pair of stilts and packs him off to the only place that will take him: Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants. But Harvey’s not a giant – and if his classmates find out they’ll stomp him into a pancake.
The story follows Harvey’s adventures as he attempts to fit in, make friends and eventually learn that when things go wrong (like his parents’ divorce) they’re not his fault.
What was the original inspiration behind your story, and how did you go about bringing this to life?
It came from a prompt in a City Lit writing class to create a scene set in an unusual school. The image of a small boy eating soup from a bowl as big as a bathtub popped into my head and Harvey Small was born. I started writing Small! while I was in a City Lit critique group, so I got plenty of feedback from other writers to help the story on its way.
Were there any particular authors or books that were valuable to you when writing SMALL!?
I always say Neil Gaiman for overall motivation. It was his Make Good Art speech that pushed me to join a City Lit writing class in the first place. And whenever I felt my writing energy ebbing, I’d watch the speech again!
You spend your days working as a Creative Director at a language and behavioural science consultancy, how did you manage your writing process alongside this?
I’m lucky enough to work part-time. I spend half the week doing my grown-up job and the other half writing stories.
What was the strangest thing you google searched when writing SMALL!?
Ooh, I’m not sure! I know I searched lots of things to do with scale. Like the height of buses and tower blocks and monuments that I might compare the giants to.
Underneath all the snot, slime and swampfish sandwiches is a big-hearted, hopeful tale of friendship, courage and acceptance. Why was writing this story important to you and what do you hope readers take away from it?
I think we all need a bit of hope right now. It’s especially easy for children to blame themselves for things that are out of their control. So I hope the ‘it’s not your fault’ message will hit home.
I hope readers will take heart from Harvey’s journey and the relationship he builds with the giants, too. It’s a reminder to think twice about judging others before you’ve trudged a mile in their stomping boots.
The ending of SMALL! hints at a future fang-tastic adventure..! Can you give us a little inside scoop of what’s next to come in your writing journey?
I don’t want to say too much. But I think there’s a lot more Stinking Sinking Swamp for Harvey and his friends to explore. And yes, a visit to the vampire school could well be next!
As a debut author, do you have any tips or advice for aspiring children’s writers?
If you’re not in one already, join a writing group. I met some brilliant writers on my City Lit course. We still cheer each other on (and share critical feedback) now.
Let’s talk books! What’s a book you loved as a child, a book you’re loving reading now, and a book you can’t wait to read?
I got into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as a teen – the first one I read was Equal Rites and I was instantly hooked with Pratchett’s clever, funny, well-observed writing.
I’m currently loving Alex Evelyn’s The Secret Wild. It’s so inventive. Her alternative giant-plant-filled London is fabulous!.
And there are SO many books I can’t wait to read - especially from fellow 2022 debuts. Next on my list is Fiona Longmuir’s Looking for Emily. Her pitch about finding a mysterious museum dedicated to one seemingly ordinary girl really intrigues me.
If you could invite any five people – past and present, real and fictional – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?
Another tough question! Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett would top the list. I’d love to listen to them catching up and chatting about their ideas.
Tim Minchin definitely gets a seat at the table, too. Partly because I’m a big fan but also to give me a chance to pitch Small! The Musical!
It would be fun to meet Victoria Wood for more musical comedy genius. Maybe she could help Tim plan the musical!
And finally, I wouldn’t want my husband, Nick, to miss out. He makes a mean roast potato, so he’d be on chef duty to cook up a delicious dinner party feast!
Hannah Moffatt is a creative director at a language and behavioural science consultancy, where she spends her days writing very sensible things for businesses. At night, she escapes into the beautifully bonkers world of middle grade fiction, where she writes significantly less sensible things for children. Hannah lives in London with her husband and a sombrero-wearing toy hedgehog named Cedric.
SMALL! is published by Everything With Word, June 2022.