Firstly, for those who haven’t yet read the incredible Lenny’s Book of Everything, can you briefly sum up what it’s about?
Lenny’s Book of Everything is the story of a boy who grows to big, a girl who loves beetles and an encyclopedia set. The boy is Davey Spink and he has a rare growth disorder. His beetle-loving sister is Lenny and she is going to tell his remarkable story. And finally, the encyclopedia set is one that they win in a competition and arrives issue by issue to their letter box and changes their lives.
What was the original inspiration behind Lenny’s Book? And did you undergo any particular research whilst writing?
The original inspiration behind Lenny’s book was wanting to write a story about being different and loving someone who is different coupled with a memory of the encyclopedia set my family had when I was a child. It was a strange little collection of ideas but one that really spoke to my heart. I tried to write it several times but failed and eventually put those ideas away. After about a decade, and not long after the death of my mother, those story ideas began calling me again. The conditions seemed right this time and when I started typing I found the voice of Lenny Spink waiting for me.
I did spend a lot of time looking into the pages of various encyclopedia sets.
I absolutely love how Lenny’s Book is constructed around the Burrell’s Read-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia! Why did you choose to explore this idea?
I am a child of the seventies and when my parents purchased an encyclopedia set when I was eight it was LIFE CHANGING. It felt like the whole world had moved into our little dining room. My siblings I literally loved those books to tatters and my passion for “looking stuff up” began right there. I really wanted it to be the same for Lenny and Davey. They really don’t get to go anywhere but they experience so many things through the pages of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home encyclopedia.
Like Lenny was fascinated by beetles and Davey by all things eagles and log cabins, what would you say your go to encyclopaedia interest is?
My favourite pages of the encyclopedia growing up were the coloured-plates on costume through history. I adored looking at those pages. I made up stories about all the different people in their different dress. I also loved the map of the moon which made its way into Lenny and Davey’s story.
You’re such a master at characterisation, that each of your characters felt so special and unforgettable to me so long so that I longed to be a part of the Spink family! Where do you get your inspiration to write your characters?
I have just always loved breathing characters to life. I love seeing them draft by draft starting to emerge. I love finding out their secrets, their memories, their dreams. I draw heavily upon my own past, my own emotions, my own memories to create the inner worlds of my characters.
Where and what do you envision Lenny doing in the future?
Oh, she definitely became a beetle expert. I hope she went to Great Bear Lake for Davey too.
If you could have any actors to play Lenny and Davey, who would you cast?
Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t really know any child actors. I think they’d have to be raw undiscovered talent.
You write in your author note about love in all its different forms – sibling love, motherly love, neighbourly love, the love between friends, and what it means to love someone who is different. What else do you hope readers take away from reading Lenny’s Book of Everything?
I think I’d love readers to ponder a while on how wonderful it is to be alive and how much there is to know.
What’s on the 2019 horizon for you? Are you working on anything new?
I am working on several things which means nothing is being achieved. A story with my daughter which is very magical. A grown-up book about hoarding, love, trauma and mostly useless objects. And a novel about a girl who can talk to hawks and a boy called Crow….
And finally, I have to ask, what are your favourite children’s books at the moment? A childhood favourite and a current one!
My favourite childhood book is Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tales – especially The Snow Queen. I’m currently reading an amazing children’s novel called The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt (she’s also Australian). Watch out for it, it is beautiful.
A massive thank you to the wonderful Karen for taking the time to answer all my questions about Lenny's Book of Everything! If you haven't already read this truly beautiful book then I can't recommend it enough, available to order from Amazon here. For more information about Karen and her books be sure to check out her website here.
You can read my review of Lenny's Book of Everything here.