Although I – the Ardagh of Ardagh and Elwick – have been staying in a castle in Ireland for a story festival leaving behind the Elwick – of Ardagh and Elwick – hard at work on various projects back at her studio, the Little Adventurers have never been far from my mind.
Before the Little Adventurers found their home at Walker Books, Elissa and I worked on the project in cafes and bars wherever and whenever. Then, once embraced by the Walker team of Deirdre, Maria, Jack, we even worked out of an office at Walker HQ for while.
Now, we regularly meet at Elissa’s studio. But, in between times, I’m forever scribbling in notebooks or tapping away on my laptop. So, whether it’s Ireland, Dubai or buying beard-combs in Bexhill, I still have Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat scuttling around in my head, having lots of tiny little adventures and chattering away to each other.
And dialogue plays an important part in the text. With Elissa’s illustrations doing so much of the work (once we’ve discussed at great length between us what will go into them), one of the most important things the words can do is make the Little Adventurers speak, advancing the plot but, equally importantly, revealing their personality.
Then I write the text. We pour over it. Laugh. Flag up the good bits. Argue over the not-so-obviously good bits, reshape it and Elissa does some pencil roughs.
It’s been interesting finding my ‘voice’ for a younger readership. Or should that be a younger being-read-to-ship? People who know me, say that my books read like my talking. People who meet me having read my books say that I sound like them. So how to tackle stories for much younger children. What of my ‘voice’ then?
Fortunately, I have a strong streak of childlike wonder and innocence running through me which I feel I’ve managed to tap into the latest draft of Book One. The good news is that Elissa has been reading through it as I write this, and she’s been making all the right noises – ‘Oooo!’s ‘Ahhh!’s and chuckles – in all the right places.
Onwards, Little Adventurers! Onwards!