AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

  • Amy Sparkes

    Amy Sparkes

    PIRATE BLUNDERBEARD: WORST. MISSION. EVER

    HARPERCOLLINS CHILDREN'S BOOKS

    JANUARY 2018


    Pirates Ahoy! We caught up with author Amy Sparkes to talk all things pirates, treasure and fishy goings-on in her series about the worst pirate, ever!

    Young Barnacles Blunderbeard is thrilled - he's off to sail the seven seas with his grandad! (and his cousin Redruth, which he's not so pleased about...). But while Barnacles is expecting sandcastles and icecream, Grandpa Greybeard has planned something else entirely...something dastardly piratey... What could possible go wrong?!

    With a dodgy chicken, the odd cannonball, some cake and laughs a plenty, Pirate Blunderbeard will hook young readers aged 7+.

    We caught up with AMY SPARKES to ask her more about PIRATE BLUNDERBEARD - WORST. MISSION. EVER.


    Q: Why did you want to write books about pirates?

    A: I grew up by the sea, staring out to the horizon and dreaming of adventure. There was also a pirate-themed adventure park, 'Treasure Island', in my home town which we used to go to, so pirates and the sea were always part of my childhood.

    I love the idea of a pirate life - going off into the wide world on a quest, filled with adventure... the crash of the waves... the smell of salt in the air... However, I also get very seasick...


    Q: Did you do need to do much research into pirate life before you started writing these books?

    A: All my five children love playing pirates so for the last ten years, I've felt like part of a pirate crew anyway!

    I did a pirate project with my children, which was great fun! We found out all kinds of interesting facts about pirates. Did you know 'shiver me timbers' probably originally meant shaking the wooden structure of the ship, either when it's being pounded by the waves or blasted by cannons? I'm not really a pirate 'expert' but then neither is Blunderbeard!


    Q: Why do you make Barnacles Blunderbeard the 'worst pirate ever'?

    A: There are lots of stories about amazing, famous pirates who were just awesome at being pirates. But what about the ones who really weren't very good at it? I thought it would be fun to write about that.


    Q: Pirate Blunderbeard has had a few narrow escapes now - do you think he's getting any better at being a pirate?

    I think Blunders will always be the 'Worst. Pirate. Ever.' I expect he thinks he's getting better though, so ssshhh, don't say anything to him...


    Q: Why did you decide to send him off with his Grandpa in this adventure?

    A: I think the poor, stressed-out pirates on Crossbones Island needed a bit of a break from Blunderbeard! And it was very fun to write about a new setting and a fun, crazy character like Grandpa.


    Q: As well as pirating, Blunderbeard likes to think of himself as a bit of an inventor. What do you think is his best machine to date?

    A: His best invention has currently been confiscated by PARPS (Pirates Against Rubbish Piracy Society) and they have banned me from mentioning it in public (or I'll have to walk the plank).

    However, I think my favourite invention so far is the HenHomerTM in 'Worst. Mission. Ever' (Book 3). Boris (Blunderbeard's pet chicken...) looks very excited about her flying lesson. I've always wanted to fly! So that's my favourite for now, unless Blunderbeard invents the InstaChocTM which instantly provides you with chocolate wherever you are.


    Q: Blunderbeard is good at baking and comes up with a fabulous birthday cake in this story. What has been your biggest baking achievement?

    A: My biggest baking 'achievement' (because no-one else could possibly be this bad) was an Everlasting Birthday Cake. It was Everlasting because it was impossible to eat - but also served well as a doorstop and a hammer for some while. This was all because I left out one egg and some baking powder and created something with the texture and weight of a paving slab. I think I'll leave the baking to Blunderbeard.


    Q: Blunderbeard's talents are a bit un-piratish though. If you were a pirate, what would you want as your special pirate skill?

    A: I'd like the special skill of knowing which buried treasure consists of proper, gold treasure coins and which treasure is a stash of chocolate coins wrapped in foil. Then I could save my time and energy and just go after the chocolate ones...


    Q: The books are written as a diary in the present tense. Does that make it harder or easier to write?

    A: I like the present tense because it gives it a sense of immediacy. We're there, right at that moment, alongside Blunderbeard. Hiding with him in a barrel... Wrestling a sneezing kraken... I think it's easier in the sense that I get caught up in the moment, too. I've giggled a lot, writing these books!



    Q: The Pirate Blunderbeard books are all illustrated by Ben Cort. Do you have a favourite character illustration?

    A: Ah, Ben has done such an amazing job, hasn't he?! I think my favourite has got to be Boris. I love the way he draws her.

    Boris is one of my favourite characters. Blunderbeard started off wanting to be like all the other pirates, so he was aiming for a parrot, sort of missed... and ended up with a chicken. And Boris is brilliant! I wanted Blunderbeard to have a pet who would also be his friend, even if they drive each other mad sometimes. I love how they squabble, even though Boris never actually says a word.


    Q: What's next for Pirate Blunderbeard?

    A: I've just finished writing book 4 and Blunderbeard is in for a wonderful treat when a famous pirate visits Crossbones Island. Of course, Blunderbeard isn't going to muck things up at all. Not. At. All.


    Q: Blunderbeard has been sailing the seven seas - what has been your best travel adventure so far?

    A: Any adventure which hasn't involved boats!! Although I spend a lot of time writing about the sea, I get very seasick. My worst adventure was on a ferry for 11 hours in terrible weather!

    So my best travel adventure has been very much on dry land - a Desert! In the Sahara, sleeping under the stars, surrounded by sand - a bit like Blunderbeard when he arrived on the Island of No Return in book 2! But thankfully without the bog, the grumpy relatives and the worms...


    Q: You give a lot of advice to aspiring authors - what are your top tips for younger writers?

    A: Dream a lot, read a lot, and write the story you wish someone else would write! Enjoy!


    Q: What is your favourite thing about being an author, and your favourite escape from writing?

    A: My favourite thing about being an author is the freedom of imagination - the magic which is just waiting there for you to dream it. There are no boundaries, no rules, anything is possible. And I love that.

    I don't really have or need an escape from writing, as I love it so much. It's a part of me. But when I'm not writing, I love climbing trees or walking by the sea, over hills, or in forests. I think I'm probably my most creative in nature, which is why I love climbing trees and writing up there!

    I also love putting on my pirate costume and being a pirate at school visits! It's so much fun creating inventions with the children and having piratey fun with chickens, pants and Tim the skull! A great way to spend the day!


    Thank you!
    Amy