5 questions for Christian O'Connell

5 questions for Christian O'Connell

Radio presenter and author Christian O'Connell's Radio Boy, illustrated by Rob Biddulph, is published next month by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

What inspired you to write a children’s book?
I’ve had the idea for years. My daughters are 10 and 12 respectively; when they were little, they loved reading and I thought it would be great to have a story about a boy who does a radio show. It’s total chaos because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he has a lot of fun. He’s a bit like I was at that age: he hasn’t got much confidence and he’s bad at sport, but he’s just obsessed with radio.

How did you get a book deal?
I’ve been doing a comedy festival over the past few years so I’ve had a lot of time to myself during the day. I wrote two or three sample chapters and mentioned it on the radio. Someone contacted me saying they liked it, but that deal never happened. I told my agent we could self-publish but then they sent it around and within a week I had offers from two publishers. I went with HarperCollins [Children’s Books] in the end, because they are the best at what they do.

How do you fit in writing with your day job?
It was harder work than I thought! I get up at 4 a.m. for my radio job, so I used my holidays and weekends to write. But when I got closer to my deadline I was getting up at 3 a.m. to write for an hour before going to work. One week, when my wife and daughters went skiing, I hired a room at a Travelodge and worked there from nine to five, every day. The room was covered in Post-it notes...the cleaner must have thought I was a serial killer.

How did Rob Biddulph get on board as illustrator?
For six months Nick [Lake, O’Connell’s editor] said to me, “I’ve got an illustrator in mind but don’t get your hopes up.” Then one day he told me it was Rob Biddulph—who is amazing. I didn’t want pictures for pictures’ sake, I almost wanted the images to be punchlines to the jokes. And that’s what Rob has done.

What events are you doing?
Well, January and February are going to be busy. I said on air: ‘If you want me to come to your school, send me an email’...and I got about 200 emails. One was from a school for deaf children, saying they would get an interpreter in to work with me. I’ll definitely do that one. I’m also working on book two!