Rachel Hamilton is the author of The Case of the Exploding Brains and its prequel, The Case of the Exploding Loo. She lives in the UK and the UAE, with her Irish husband and her two children.
Q. What books did you read when you were a child?
A. Any book I could lay my hands on. My favourites were always the bonkers ones: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Judith Kerr’s The Tiger who Came to Tea, Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids, and Roald Dahl’s Matilda to name just a few. Oh, and absolutely everything by Diana Wynne Jones. Her books are made of magic.
Q. If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A. It’s got to be a villain. I’ve always wanted to be a criminal mastermind, but in real life I’m far too worried about getting into trouble. Can I be Moriarty? I’d like to be Moriarty. Although any evil genius will do.
Q. What is the best thing about reading?
A. Can I have two things? Reading makes me think and it makes me laugh. My two favourite activities.
Q. What is your all time favourite book?
A. Impossible question. But, for today, I’ll say Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
Q. Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A. Most of the children I know are already brilliant communicators. So I’d just say listen to them and encourage them, especially when they’re talking nonsense. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in nonsense. Life is too short to spend it listening to people who always make sense.
Q. How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A. A huge part – by constantly moving house so I had nothing better to do than write! My dad was in the Air Force so we rarely lived anywhere for more than eighteen months and it took a while to make friends. The advantage of being in a permanent state of boredom is that it gives your brain space to come up with daft ideas and wonderful stories.
Also, to be fair, my parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams. Our family motto was ‘You can do anything if you try hard’. Although, looking back, that was usually called out from the sofa when we moaned that we couldn’t find our belongings or put our shoes on by ourselves, so it may have been slightly less inspirational than it sounds.
Q. How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A. Our house is stuffed full of books. It drives my husband crazy but it means there’s plenty of choice whenever anyone wants something to read. And I’ve always told my children stories. My son and I used to laugh ourselves stupid over Not Now Bernard by David McKee when Bernard’s parents fail to realise he’s been eaten and replaced by a furry purple monster. Roald Dahl is also brilliant to read out loud, as is Sally Gardner, whose words have a beautiful melody to them.
I encourage my kids to see authors as ‘normal’ people and to think about the choices they’ve made in the tone, subject and language of their books. Both my son and daughter love writing book reviews and, to my son’s delight, Neil Gaiman shared his review of Fortunately, The Milk on Twitter last year, describing it as ‘the best review ever’.
Our favourite stories are the ones we make up ourselves. Both The Case of the Exploding Loo and The Case of the Exploding Brains began life as bedtime stories.
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