The Child in Me: Oliver Jeffers

The Child in Me: Oliver Jeffers

What kind of child were you?

A small blondish one. From my perspective I was a brilliant child; from my parents' perspective I was a bit of a pain in the arse, but not that bad all and all when it came down to it. 

What are your most vivid childhood memories?

Building forts. Playing football. Licking the bowl after a cake had been made. Drawing pictures. Going to school. Getting in Trouble. Getting out of Trouble. Climbing trees. Falling out of trees. Sitting on my mum's knee getting my wounds tended to. The local shop. My grandparents' soup. Fighting with my brothers. Laughing with my brothers. Getting locked in a public bathroom once. And so it goes.

How did you start reading and what books have stayed with you?

Reading The BFG by Roald Dahl first got me into books. I couldn't put it down. There was a dark mischeviousness that completely enraptured me, and a more-ishness that meant for the first time I was reading a book when I didn't have to. I was quite depressed when I finished the book, as I didn't want the adventure to end.

I was relieved to find out that Dahl had written other books, which I pored over one by one, and by the time I was done with him, I was an avid reader for life.

How did you start drawing – do you remember the first things you drew?

I first started drawing pretty badly. I wasn't even one of the top five in my class. But even so, I still enjoyed it and kept at it, eventually getting better with practice. I made a real breakthrough when I realised I had more fun when I didn't try to make my drawings look 'proper' or the way someone else's looked, but just let it come out of the pen.

What do you find difficult to draw?

Flowers. And bicycles. And sometimes abstract concepts. I got better at bicycles though. I had to draw one in Stuck and so I practiced a lot.

Do you draw on your own childhood in your work?

Absolutely. The way in which I make my books is an extension of the way I see the world when I'm not really looking at anything. The way I see the world when I'm in the recesses of my imagination is completely informed by experiences I had when I was growing up. Some obvious, some less so.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have several books on my bedside table. I like to dip in and out of different ones depending on my mood. Currently there is Salt by Mark Kurlansky, which is a non-fiction book entirely about salt. I'm fascinated by knowledge and how our world works and am very curious. So many interesting things have happened that its sometimes difficult to justify reading about things that haven't.

Then I'm halfway through the Keith Richards biography Life which helps whenever I need some entertainment without having to think too much.

I also have Mina, the follow-up to Skellig by David Almond which was sent to me before I illustrated my most recent book.

And I still have East of Eden by John Steinbeck in the pile too, even though I finished it a few months ago. Now, that is one epic sweeping American novel. Pure brilliant. Lee might be my favorite character in literature.

In my pile of next books to read are Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel.

The Hueys in It Wasn't Me by Oliver Jeffers is published by HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks.