Andi Watson is the author of the wonderful graphic novel Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, which is in stores this week!
What’s your protagonist’s favorite flavor of ice cream and why? What’s your own favorite flavor of ice cream?
I would guess that Count Spatula would prefer to make his own ice cream and create something like the Buttercream Blizzard. It isn’t served in a cone but blows in from the north in the shape of a funnel. You don’t eat it so much as wear it. My own favorite ice cream is the humble 99. In England a 99 is a wafer cone with a swirl of vanilla ice cream and a chocolate flake stuck in the top. It harks back to childhood and the sound of the chime of the ice cream van. The art to eating a 99 involves pushing the flake down into the base of the cone so that when the ice cream is finished you then have the extra treat of the chocolate/wafer combo. On the first hot day of the year a walk in the park isn’t complete without a 99.
Which literary character would you fall in love with if they existed outside of the pages of books?
I do have a weakness for Lizzie Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. I find her mix of warmth, quick wit and impudence irresistible. Not to spread my affections too far, but I could easily fall for Flora Poste of Cold Comfort Farm. She is eminently pragmatic, has a distaste for dramatic scenes and is incredibly bossy. As in real life I can’t help but be won over by intelligence, a sense of humour and self confidence.
What book would you take with you to a desert island?
That’s a tough one as it presents an awful dilemma: take an old favourite I know I’ll never tire of or something I’ve always meant to read but never got around to. On the one hand Pride and Prejudice or the other War and Peace. I’d probably cheat and plump for the complete works of an author: Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh or The Complete Uncle by J.P. Martin. The thought of having only one book is rather depressing but Uncle the oligarch elephant would be good company as I struggled to survive on a desert island.
Flight or invisibility?
Being the introverted creative type, invisibility. The habit of eavesdropping and observing would be that much easier. I could also sketch people in coffee shops without them or me feeling self-conscious.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
I didn’t have a single favourite but a few that quickly followed on each other at junior school and made me a lifelong reader. The book that absolutely gripped me wasn’t one I initially read. It was read aloud to the whole class in the ‘comfy corner’ at school. The teacher read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and I was transported to the children’s escape through the caves under the hill. The words absolutely brought the feelings of claustrophobia and excitement to life. It was like magic. That same year I picked The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White off the school library shelves and was again transported to another time and place. I still love The Once and Future King cycle and Alan Garner is a wonderful writer for a reader of any age.
What was the last book you read?
My reading is usually directed by what I find in the local second hand bookshops. I’ve just finished The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. It’s the second in the Martin Beck series of crime novels from the 60s and 70s. I like the clarity of the prose (the authors were journalists) and the low key nature of the plots and procedural details. It makes police work sound like a grind and a slog and not at all glamourous. I’ve not read a whole lot of crime fiction but I was turned on to the books by the brilliant Radio 4 dramatisations from a year or so ago.
What food goes perfectly with your novel?
A slice of cake is essential, I would say. Or maybe an entire cake? There must be cake.
What’s your favorite word?
Gallimaufry. It means a mess or collection of things, but the definition is secondary to how it sounds. I even used the word for my Tumblr account: http://gallimaufry-of-girls.tumblr.com
What literary character should your readers use as a basis for their mental picture of you?
I would think I’d be a hopeless literary character as my life is quite uneventful. Outside of my family I’m either drawing or writing or thinking about drawing and writing. I’m lucky to not have experienced any personal disasters, existential crises or serious illnesses. Lets hope I’m not run over by a bus before this is posted.
You have one chance to convert someone into a book lover. What book do you give them?
The sensible answer is that it depends on the person and that it’s an unfair to expect a single book to make every individual into a book lover. However, I might plump for Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse (Something New in the US) and hope the reader has a sense of humour, an appreciation for the absurd and a beating heart. After that, Dear Reader, you’re on your own.
What literary character is your favorite Halloween costume?
Tock from the Phantom Tollbooth. I’d have to make this one myself, perhaps out of a novelty onesie and a kitchen clock.
What’s your favorite part of a book?
It’s not the start as there’s normally a period of adjustment, a changing of gears from the previous author, that takes some time to get used to. I just went from the Martin Beck to a Philip K. Dick and it’s taking a chapter or two to adapt. My favorite part is when I find I love a book and decide that the writer is now my Brand New Favourite Author and know that this writer has written a bunch of other books that I can enjoy. I had that feeling when I first read Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford and Uncle by J.P. Martin. It’s also a little bit heartbreaking when I re-read a gem like Grimble by Clement Freud and discover that there aren’t another six Grimble books.
What animal would your daemon (or patronus) be?
A capybara. Capybaras resemble overgrown guinea pigs and always look content. My back up plan would be a Long-tailed Tit as they’re cute and I often get to see them in the garden.
What’s the first book you remember reading?
It was probably a Janet and John book as they were how I learned to read. They did the job teaching the mechanics of reading but weren’t exactly full of narrative drive. They typically went something along the lines of, “John, see the aeroplanes. One, two, three aeroplanes. I can see three aeroplanes.” I expect I was reading the comics in the daily newspaper before I could understand the words. I was a slow starter as there weren’t many books around at home and my brain reads images quicker than prose.
If you and your main character went on an adventure together, where would you go? Would it be fun?
We’d likely go climb Big Rock Candy Mountain or root around in the Sherbert Mines. It’d be scary but I’d be interested in taking a tour of the Underworld. See the sights like the river Lethe, the caves of Hypnos, the Styx, Blasted Heath, the Palace Dungeons and other attractions. I imagine it’d be quite damp and dusty so would have to take my asthma inhaler.
What would a reading tree house designed just for you look like?
The look is secondary to comfort. Firstly it should be warm, so have one of those large iron Edwardian radiators used to blast heat into a drafty room. Secondly a good view. So a picture window looking down on a busy street scene in a city (in which case sound proofing is essential) or on a picturesque bit of countryside, a bend in the river with lots of bird life. Even better the window could look out on different views, like the door in Howl’s Moving Castle. Thirdly a comfortable window seat. Window seats are made for reading in. Lastly, tea-making facilities within reaching distance with milk, teapot and loose tea (not tea bags).
Who’s your favorite author?
The wonderful thing about reading is that there are so many authors with so many experiences, perceptions, observations and points of view. That is what makes reading special, so it’s hard to choose one. But if I had to plump for a single author who will always delight and entertain and be good company, I’d go for Jane Austen. Her novels have wit, insight, social comedy, wry observation and romance.
If you could meet one now-deceased author or illustrator, who would it be?
The hardest thing would be choosing just one. Drinking with Dorothy Parker, dinner with Henry James, travelling with Samuel Johnson would all be fascinating. I think I’d like to meet Laurence Sterne. He was a clergyman, satirist and novelist with a unique voice. I’d be interested to know if his body actually was dug up by resurrection men and sold to anatomists before being put back in an unknown plot. That sounds like something out of Tristram Shandy and he’d make a good story of it.