Interview with Stuart Simmonds, author of Harry the Karate Monkey and the Hannah the Spanner series of books

I am extremely honored to bring you an amazing interview with Stuart Simmonds, a married father of two girls, Hannah and Lucy, an accomplished cricketer and sports coach.  He now runs a property business from his home in East Grinstead, Sussex. 

Prior to writing the Hannah the Spanner series, he wrote an autobiography on a life in cricket, titled ‘Watching With My Heroes’, which was widely sold through all major retailers.

Having long considered writing children’s books based on a promise made to his daughter when she was just five, late in 2019 he presented her with the first edition draft on her 21st birthday. How cool is that?

I absolutely love how Stuart replied to every one of the questions fully and thoughtfully and I hope you all enjoy this incredible interview.

What do you enjoy the most about writing books for children?

I find it quite pleasing that I’m getting to do something different for a job than the ones I previously had. It still feels as if it’s something new and, as the books I’ve written so far seem to have gone down really well that makes it even better!

What is your writing process like?

Generally, I come up with the initial idea in note form and expand it from there. Once I’m happy with my first attempts, I send it off to about six friends of mine, mostly my old friends from school who are all teachers. Once I’ve had their comments, I might chop and change it a bit until I’m happy with the second stage. Then it’s off to Xanna, who will edit the words for me and generally thin them out, so they fit into the format for a children’s book.

Whilst she’s going over my words, I send Bill a list of pictures I want in the book from my final draft and he sketches them out. Once we’re happy with those, he starts to illustrate the book. And then we put the words and the pictures together!

What is most important to you while writing a children’s book?

Very importantly, I try to write something that will make me laugh and in turn make the children and their parents laugh along too.

Why do you think it is important to encourage children to read and enjoy books?

There are so many benefits that reading brings to your children and their futures. However, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest advantage by a country mile is that the words and pictures are able to lead them towards a world where their brilliant imaginations can take over… and maybe the parents’ too, for that matter.

What was the most difficult challenge while writing ‘Harry the Karate Monkey?

The hardest thing about writing Harry was trying to make it different from the Hannah the Spanner books while, all at the same time, doing it with them living in the same world. So, we made it a bit more cartoon-like and set it out in a comic book style. Thankfully, it’s gone down well.

What would you advise a child who wanted to become a writer when they were older?

Try and write as much as you can and see where it takes you. If you have a decent idea, get some notes down on paper and then write about anything that you like and see what comes out at the other end. It’s also important to never lose faith in what you do and to listen to other authors and the highs and lows that they’ve all had.

Can you give us a little glimpse into the second book of the series?

We’ve got plans for at least another four Harry books. The next one is set in school with Lucy’s show and tell time, which – not surprisingly – ends up in chaos. Then there is another based in the local supermarket and then one set on holiday in Cape Town. That should keep us busy…!

Thank you so much Stuart for taking the time to answer these questions and for sharing an insight into your writing process. It’s an absolute pleasure to have been able to interview you.

If you would like to know more about Stuart here is his website

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