Firstly, for those who haven’t yet read the fantastic Octopants, can you briefly sum up what it’s about?
Hello! Yes, absolutely. Octopants is the story of a young octopus with a big problem: he can’t get any underpants to fit!
Everyone else seems to have suitable underwear – even the sea turtle and the pufferfish have pants (gloriously designed by the illustrator, Claire Powell). But there don’t seem to be any for an octopus – it seems that he just has too many legs.
Your creation of the underwater world is just hilariously imaginative and the Under-Sea Emporium is just fantastic! What was the original inspiration behind Octopants?
Thanks so much. When my daughter was very young, she had a squeezy octopus bath toy. Strangely, this octopus prompted a song about octopuses not having underwear (I have no idea why we sang this. Possibly just because it didn’t.) It got me thinking though – what if you really were an octopus, and unable to find underpants to fit. That could be quite a problem. And from there it was just a picture book waiting to happen!
It took a while to get the story right – partly because my daughter kept telling me that I hadn’t got it right, and that I should try again. Eventually we managed to agree on it, though. She’s at high school now, but hasn’t lost that attention to detail – so these days, she checks my grammar and punctuation too.
What was your favourite part about writing Octopants?
It was so much fun to write – especially thinking up different creatures and clothing combinations for the Undersea Emporium. A kind friend let me bombard her with the ideas to see what worked and what didn’t (I think she is due credit for the bobble hats, actually) and we just had a blast.
The nudibranch in overalls sadly didn’t make it into the text in the end, but I had quite a lot of giggles playing the online free dictionary’s audio clips of the ‘nudibranch’ pronunciation, over and over. Try it. It’s brilliant.
What does your writing space look like?
In the winter, I work at the kitchen table, as it’s nice and warm - and close to the kettle and biscuit tin!
I love your message that no matter if you have eight legs, a tale or a fin you’ll always find something to wear that’s perfect for you. If readers could take away one thing from your picture book what would you want it to be?
Thank you – it’s been wonderful finding out what people have found in the book! I think my main thought was that sometimes a problem isn’t what we think it is. Sometimes we are trying to solve the wrong thing, and could look at it a different way.
I also love that children have picked out that we don’t always need something just because everyone else seems to have it. And that we are all different in brilliant ways, and can all like different things.
It’s also been great to hear that people have found the pants theme to be useful for potty training!
I absolutely love the vibrant and lively underwater illustrations by Claire Powell, is it exactly how you envisioned your story looking like?
Isn’t Claire’s artwork just amazing? The illustrations are so full of humour and colour; they are a joy to look at, and there is always something new to spot.
It has been wonderful to be matched up with Claire for this book. The final product book is all I could have ever wished for and more. There are some things – like the octopus’s expression when he tells us he has no pants – which are almost exactly as I imagined them too.
I do think visually when writing, but that’s only to the extent that I make sure the text works as a picture book. In general, I find it quite hard to imagine how a story is going to look – because talented illustrators and designers will take the words and then turn them into something way bigger.
With the ocean covering more than 70% of the earth’s surface and with all the amazing sea creatures out there, are we likely to see more stories come from your underwater world?
We hope so!
What’s your favourite underwater animal?
No seriously - I rather like rays. But from a distance.
(Nudibranchs are amazing, though.)
What’s on the horizon for you now? Are you working on anything new?
Yes! I have a few projects in the early stages, but the ones publishing next are Unicorn Club, illustrated by Leire Martin and published by Little Tiger Press in July, and A Pirate Christmas Activity Book illustrated by Andy Catling and published by Lion Children’s, in August.
And finally, I have to ask, what’s your favourite children’s book at the moment? Or what are two of your favourites? A childhood favourite and a current one!
Definitely the Oi, Frog! series. They are SO funny! And Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie books. The dynamic between Elephant and Piggie is lovely.
Oh, and Pugly! Pamela Butchart’s Pugly books have us in stitches.
Apologies, that’s at least twelve, and I haven’t even included a childhood one. But what can you do when there are so many great books out there?
And, if you could invite any five people – past and present – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?
Ah. Given that I couldn’t manage to choose one book, I probably have no chance of narrowing this down to five people. I think it would have to be a big party!
Thanks again for having me on your lovely blog!
A massive thank you to wonderful Suzy for taking the time to answer my interview questions - it's been such a treat getting this glimpse into the inspiration behind Octopants and the life of Suzy Senior!
Be sure to check out the fantastic picture book Octopants, available in paperback now!
Also you can check out my review on Octopants here!
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