Twitter, IG: @stephcampisi
Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m a picture book author who writes stories about creatures and people who don’t quite fit in. My books include The Ugly Dumpling, Luis and Tabitha (out this month!) and soon The Five Sisters and Very Lulu.
I’m originally from Australia, but now live in a tiny town in Washington State, USA. I spend my days working in my upstairs office, reading on the porch and keeping an eye out for interesting wildlife in my yard.
1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
Absolutely! I was lucky enough to have a library at the end of my street, so I spent most of my afternoons there. They had a great kids’ section, and I remember trying to work my way through all the books in alphabetical order!
2. What was your favorite story?
I loved animal books, fantasy stories and ghost stories. When I was 9, some of my favourites were The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, which were starting to become really popular at the time.
3. How do you get your ideas?
I get ideas from everywhere! I email myself newspaper stories that I find interesting, take photos when I’m out walking or travelling, and make notes when I read something interesting in a book. Normal conversations with people can also lead to great ideas. People all lead such different lives, and it’s easy to come across something that you find really interesting and worth exploring in a story. I also love word play, so lots of my books start out with a funny title and build from there.
4. Your book – was it easy or hard?
The initial idea is always easy, but turning it into a book is hard work! Even a picture book can take months to write, and it can be a few years before it ends up in a bookshop or on library shelves. I do think that the more you write the easier it gets. It’s a bit like taking up running: at first you run out of breath really quickly, but the longer you train, the longer (and better) you can run!
5. What author do you really like right now?
I really enjoy Cressida Cowell – I think she’s hilarious! In teen books I love Jaclyn Moriarty, and for picture books I think that Julie Falatko and Ame Dyckman are great.
6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
For picture books, Jessie Sima and Dashka Slater; for novels, Mary Hooper and Cassandra Golds are authors you might like to try in a few years’ time. (I have to keep it short, or I’ll go on forever! I feel like so few authors are as well-known as they should be!)
7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Just the basics: read a lot, write a lot, and be a mindful “reporter” of the world around you. Write stories that you love, and explore interesting characters and ideas. Don’t even worry about how to turn a story into a book. Just enjoy reading, writing, and observing. All of these habits are very valuable skills for an author.
8. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
Yes, I do! It absolutely makes my day to get an email or a message from someone telling me that they’ve enjoyed one of my books. So if you read something that you love, don’t feel shy about letting the author know. I promise they’ll love to hear from you. It’s much better than getting a bill in the post.
(In fact, when I was about 13, I wrote to one of my favourite authors, and she wrote back with a lovely note – I was so surprised and excited, because up until then I don’t think I’d truly realised that authors were real people! That note helped me realise that being an author was something that I could do, too.)
9. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
Well, books are full of drama, and I’m a very boring person. So nothing where I’d be in trouble or danger! I think I’d pick a setting by Diana Wynne Jones. Weird, strange things might happen, but I’d be having so much fun I wouldn’t mind