One of the stars of Penguin Random House Children’s stand this year is Tom Fletcher, who says he is "excited" to meet his international publishing family at Bologna for the first time.
Fletcher started writing children’s books when he was a member of the pop/rock band McFly, and has since sold 1.45 million copies of his titles, with value sales of £7m, in the UK. Internationally, he has been published in 25 languages around the world (rights have sold in 17 languages for The Christmasaurus and 13 for There’s a Monster in Your Book), but Fletcher has not yet met his foreign publishers. "Usually I get sent a box of books but I don’t really get to meet anyone, so it will be nice to meet them face to face."
He will be putting on a show at Bologna, "singing, talking, doing a bit of performing, showing all the things I can do", he says. "My whole life was music and writing books is relatively new for me, but I don’t see them as two separate careers. Usually when I write there is some musical element to go along with the story... Even if I’m the only one who ever hears it."
PRH is promoting Fletcher’s full range of titles at Bologna: his solo picture books, the picture books he writes with McFly bandmate Dougie Poynter, his middle-grade novels, and the upcoming YA novel he wrote with his wife, Giovanna Fletcher, called Eve of Man. The novel is about the last girl on Earth and was his hardest to write, he says. "Writing the first draft was relatively straight-forward, because the book alternates between two characters, roughly chapter by chapter." Fletcher says he wrote the chapters about one character, and his wife the other chapters featuring the co-star. "But with the edits, it was logistically difficult to keep on top of the changes. I would change one tiny thing and that would have implications for her character."
Fletcher will also perform excerpts from the stage show adaptation of The Christmasaurus, which is also being adapted into an animated film directed by Michael Gracey, who recently directed "The Greatest Showman". "Most of my books are not specifically books," Fletcher explains. "I write them as stories that can be used in different ways.
"The thing about writing books is that the story is in my control, and I enjoy that, but it’s not the end of the process. Actually it’s nice working with experts [on stage shows or films] that share your creative vision. I’m not a scriptwriter, so it’s great working with scriptwriters who have a passion for my story."
Two books are scheduled for release in May— There’s a Dragon in Your Book, illustrated by Greg Abbott, and a YA novel—and the paperback edition of The Creakers will be out this year too. He has to write at night, once his children have gone to bed ("basically I don’t sleep any more", he says), but promises there will be further middle-grade books and more titles in the Dinosaur that Pooped... range with Poynter.
He collaborates with three illustrators: Abbott, who did the picture book There’s a Monster in Your Book; Garry Parsons (the Dinosaur that Pooped... series); and Shane Devries, who was working in film when Fletcher hired him to work on the book and movie version of The Christmasaurus concurrently. All of the illustrators have a different type of input into their projects; Devries was sent story ideas before the text was even finished. "We had lots of Skype chats," laughs Fletcher.
For now, he is recovering from World Book Day, for which he did several events with schoolchildren in the UK that sound far more intimidating than performing for publishers at Bologna. "When you are on your own with a class full of children, it’s terrifying," he says. "Kids are so honest and don’t lie. The kids weren’t born when McFly started, so I can’t rely on that. The McFly thing doesn’t work with seven-year-olds."