To celebrate the publication of the 12th and final Norm book ‘Must End Soon’ I am delighted to welcome Jonathan Meres to my blog for a special Q & A.
Jonathan Meres – Q & A
- So ‘The World of Norm: Must End Soon’ is the twelfth and final book in the ‘Norm’ series did you ever envisage when the first book was published that there would be 12 in total?
Absolutely not. I honestly didn’t envisage there’d be three, let alone twelve! I knew there were going to be two. And quite frankly I’d have settled for that. Because at that point, I hadn’t had a new book out for about three years. To say that publishers weren’t exactly beating a path to my door, would be an understatement.
- How do you feel now that the series is ended, will you miss writing ‘Norm’?
To be perfectly honest, it still hasn’t sunk in. And at the time of writing, I’m about to go on tour, promoting Must End Soon, for a couple of weeks. So, I’m still in full Norm-mode. Once that’s over – and I’ve done a few other bits and bobs, it might begin to sink in. Will I miss writing it? Not sure. But I definitely won’t miss the deadlines. Two books a year, for the past six years, has been pretty intense. But as problems go, it’s been a very nice problem. So I’m definitely not complaining. Honest!
- I know this is like asking to choose which is your favourite child but do you have a favourite book in the Norm series?
I know there’ll be plenty of people who beg to differ, but I honestly think the books have got better and better as the series has gone on. I narrated the first four quite recently, for the audio book versions and there’s so much I’d change now, if, like Cher, I could turn back time. Having said all that – and this is stating the obvious – if it hadn’t been for the first one, May Contain Nuts, the other eleven wouldn’t have happened, they wouldn’t have been translated into fifteen languages, or sold nearly a million copies. So, I guess it can’t have been all that terrible. Oh and if anyone’s wondering? My favourite child is my youngest. The other two are rubbish.
- Who if anyone inspired the characters in the series and how do you dream up the crazy escapades that Norm finds himself in?
Well it’s no coincidence that Norm has two brothers and that I have three sons. Or that my sons were aged about thirteen, ten and seven when I first came up with the idea. Or that my boys were all into mountain biking, at the time. But it’s not as simple as saying that my eldest is Norm, my second eldest is Brian and my youngest is Dave. Yes, there are elements there. But basically, everything went into the pot, I added a good dollop of myself and gave it all a good stir. So the premise is very loosely based on my own family. Occasionally one of them will say something and I’ll write it down. But the vast majority is completely made up. Norm’s a universal character. There’s a bit of him in all of us.
- The series is brilliantly illustrated by Donough O’Malley. Was it important to you that your book featured illustrations?
Honestly? I had no idea whatsoever that it would even be illustrated. As I said earlier, it had been a while since my last book. There was no guarantee that May Contain Nuts would ever be published. Far from it! And I genuinely had no idea that the vogue at the time (2009/10) was for funny MG fiction with cartoon style doodles a la Wimpy Kid etc. I just wrote it. No thoughts at all about what was popular, age groups, word counts or any of that stuff. But you’re right. Donough’s illustrations are brilliant. I can’t think of Norm any other way now.
- If children have loved the ‘Norm’ series do you have any recommendations about what they can read next?
Comedy answer = Yeah, they can read my next series.
More serious answer = I’ve made a point of not reading anything even vaguely in the same ballpark as Norm. For the simple reason that there’s no danger of me ever being subliminally influenced and ripping anyone off. If I do read other children’s books – and to be honest, I rarely do – it tends to be something a million miles away from what I’d write, myself. So – and I’m sorry if this is a bit of a cop out – but I’m actually not the best person to ask.
- What have you got planned next? Are you able to tell us about future books?
Another series with Orchard/Hachette. I can’t tell you too much, at the moment. Partly because I don’t know too much, myself, at the moment. Even though I’ve already started writing it. Which is a bit scary. I can tell you that it will be for roughly the same age group as Norm ie quite broad. And that it will be funny. Well, hopefully it will be funny. There’ll definitely be words in it. And characters doing stuff. Who knows? There may even be illustrations.
- Having seen the hugely positive impact on children at my school when we have had author visits, what have been your experience as an author and how do you feel children have benefitted?
I’ve done literally hundreds of school visits, in my 19 years as a published author. Many of them, before the first Norm was ever published. When nobody knew me, or my books. I just used my skills (I use the term in the loosest possible sense) as an actor and (former) comedian, to engage with kids and get them fired up about books and reading – and maybe, just maybe change one or two perceptions about what authors are supposed to be like. I have had some amazing experiences, performing to children. Whether that’s an audience of 25, in a library, or 2500 in an enormous theatre. There’s no shadow of a doubt that children of all ages respond to seeing a live author. As opposed to a dead one. And I’ve said it before, but the biggest compliment I can be paid, is hearing about a child who wouldn’t normally go anywhere near the school library, going as a result of one of my visits. Even if it is to borrow a book by David Walliams.
- What’s the one piece of advice you would give to young writers who may be struggling with their writing?
- And finally would you rather write a book on the back of a camel or on a rollercoaster?
Seriously? Camel. Every time. Preferably Bactrian. One hump to lean back on and the other to lean on.
The World of Norm Complete Series Giveaway
How would you like to win the complete series of ‘The World of Norm’ books, well luckily for you the lovely people at Hachette have given me the whole of the series, all 12 books to giveaway to one lucky winner! To enter simply comment on this blog post or pop over to my Twitter page, ends 7th July UK only.
A huge thank you to Jonathan for stopping by the blog today and participating in my Q & A and to Dom from Hachette for inviting me to host this fabulous giveaway.