Q&A with Author Abie Longstaff

If it rains for 2-weeks solid, the boiler breaks, and we run out of percy pigs, there are still some things in our house that will always remain the same (and keep us sane). These are the excitement that our girls get from the following things (in no particular order); sparkly anything, hair dressing, spag bol and ice cream, fairy-tale characters (and moshi’s), happy endings, and always wanting to be the heroine in your own life story.

fairytale hairdresser

Cue, the rather wonderful favourite and charming book  ‘The Fairytale Hairdresser’, that makes us laugh, keeps us hooked on every page, is refreshingly fun, has lovely bright illustrations, and is the best spin on the fairytale world ‘meets’ the modern world that we have seen to date. We also are big fans of The Pirate House Swap, which also entertains the pixies and keeps the adults going too.

We thought we would invite Abie Longstaff the author of this book, (and a few other brilliant ones) into our inner circle of bus driving chit chat to see if she would share some of her secrets, and guess what, we got a bright, sparkly, glistening and sunny YES! so Voila,  and we hope you enjoy the read. x

Why & how did you choose to be a writer?

The nice thing about being a writer is you can just ‘be’ one – you don’t need someone to pay you, or tell you to begin. You just pick up a pen and a bit of paper and start! In this sense, I have always been a writer. As a child I made up lots of stories – some in words, some in pictures and some out loud to my younger sisters. Nowadays, I write half of the week and I work for a charity the other half.

Did you enjoy art & English at school?

I loved art and English in school and out. I read a lot as a child. I used to hide under the duvet with a torch, or climb into a tree with a book and not come out for hours. I have always drawn for fun and, although I don’t illustrate my books, I still draw to help the idea develop.

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Cinderella

What were your favourite books as a kid?

Oh there were so many! I have a real love for picture books – I think it’s because I am the eldest of 6 children so I read picture books aloud to my younger sisters for years and years. Some of the classic picture books stay in your head like beautiful prose poems. I love rereading them to my own children and my shelf is still full of picture books today.

Picture 2 Books on my shelf

Books on my shelf – Are there any you recognise?

Who are your top 3 artists and authors, and why? 

Another hard question! (there had better be cake at the end of this) If I had to choose three, I would start with Eva Ibbotson – I adore so many of her books. I am reading ‘Journey to the River Sea’ to my daughter at the moment and the writing has an effortless beauty to it. I also love David McKee – particularly ‘The Sad Story of Veronica Who Played the Violin’. It is such a good example of a how a picture book can be appealing without being cheesy! The wonderful Babette Cole would be my third; so many of her books were ground-breaking in a quiet, social sense. She has a skill for writing about serious topics in a light and funny way – ‘Mummy laid an egg’ and ‘Princess Smartypants’ are great examples.

Where would you love to spend a creative afternoon, and why?

Like a lot of authors, I find being on the train or bus really stimulating. There’s something about the scenery flicking by that gives me ideas. I’m also a terrible eavesdropper – I love listening to other people’s conversations and I often overhear real gems that become ideas for books.

Picture 3 - view from car

view from car

What do you use for inspiration with your work?

I use the world around me; observations of adults and children and animals. I collect good stories which grow into ideas. For example, my good friend told me this story: when she was little she heard her dad say he worked for lions; so she told everyone he was a lion tamer. In fact, it turned out he worked for Lyons, the tea house, and my friend was really disappointed. The story made me laugh so I took one element of it and made it into a picture book called ‘Just the Job for Dad,’ which comes out with Scholastic next year.

What creative tools can you not live without?

Pen and paper! I carry a notebook everywhere I go and I scribble in it whenever I have a moment.

Picture 1 Thumbnails for The Fairytale Hairdresser and Cinderella

Picture 4 My small notebook

My small notebook, full of ideas for The Fairytale Hairdresser series’

Can you leave us one creative secret to share please?

Just play. As a child I played lots of imagination based games with my sisters and many of these have grown into books. We used to love playing hairdressers and we spent ages designing the business, setting up the salon and writing treatment menus. It was this game that gave me the idea for ‘The Fairytale Hairdresser’ series. Then, when I had my own children, a game I played with them became ‘The Mummy Shop’. There’s something about simply letting go and messing around that seems to bring ideas for me.

Picture 5 - Me, with 3 of my 5 sisters

‘Me, with 3 of my 5 sisters’

Any secrets and advice to share with our pixie artists, who might just want to be like you when they grow up?

I keep all my ideas and I never throw anything away – all my notebooks sit on the shelves above my desk and whenever I need inspiration I just pull an old notebook down and flick through it. Even if an idea doesn’t work for one story, it may fit in really well with another.

Picture 6 - Me at my desk2

 ‘At my desk’