Wales Arts Review welcomes one of its youngest ever contributors in Phoebe Anglin (aged 11), who has put together this interview with children’s author, Francesca Simon.
Francesca Simon was born in California, in 1955; she is a British-American children’s author living in London. Her first Horrid Henry book was published in 1994. She has written 24 books in the Horrid Henry series in total, alongside numerous ‘early reader’ versions of Horrid Henry. In 2008 she won the children’s book of the year award for Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman.
The first book that I read of Francesca Simon’s was Horrid Henry Gets Rich Quick. This book is very funny. Henry really wants to earn some money, so he sells his Dad’s old tennis racket and his Mum’s expensive perfume. He also tries to sell his ‘perfect’ brother Peter as a slave! When I was a lot younger the Horrid Henry books first attracted me because of their front covers, and Henry’s mischievous face on the front.
I have grown up within a family that loves to read books and have always really enjoyed reading myself. I never think you are too old to read a book, but as an eleven year-old I realise that Horrid Henry is not aimed at me anymore. I have a six year-old brother who also loves to read though, and he’s recently inherited my Horrid Henry collection. It’s great to hear him laughing out loud at the books, and I would say that his favourite one is Horrid Henry’s Rainy Day.
I was recently given the opportunity by Wales Arts Review to speak with Francesca Simon who was kind enough to answer my questions:
Phoebe Anglin: When you first published Horrid Henry in 1994 did you ever imagine that your books would be as successful and recognised worldwide as they have proven to be?
Francesca Simon: Not in a million years!
Did you aspire to be a writer when you were a child, or did this come later in life?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
Are your characters in Horrid Henry based on anyone you know, or have known?
They are based on aspects of everyone. We can all be moody, weepy, bossy, etc. at times.
How do you feel when you see your name on the front covers of books, and on posters throughout the world?
I always find it thrilling.
When you were younger did you have a favourite author or literary hero?
My favourite authors were Edward Eager and Beverly Cleary.
If you had to re-write any of your stories, would you change anything, and why?
A good question. I would not have the first Horrid Henry story being about how he tried to be perfect, since we never really saw him being horrid. But that’s because I wasn’t planning to write a series of books.
How long does a Horrid Henry book take to write?
About four months.
Have you got any upcoming, books, films, or plays, that children can look forward to?
Yes! Horrid Henry’s Krazy Ketchup comes out in June, and the third book in my Mortal Gods series, which is called The Monstrous Child is published in 2015. I’m writing that now.
What are your main words of advice for children aspiring to become a writer?
To read, read, read, read, read, read! And to finish what you start.
In three words how would you sum up your career as a writer so far?
Surprising. Fun. Challenging.
A Horrid Henry vs Dennis the Menace event takes place at the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival on Saturday 12th April.
Banner illustration by Dean Lewis