Did you always want to be a writer?

I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. Before that I wanted to be a mermaid, but then I realized that was a pipe dream. I always loved stories. They were my favourite thing, along with jokes. Writing my own sometimes feels like a hobby I’ve taken too far. The first story I ever wrote was when I was six. It was called ‘the rabbit that jumped too high’ (but it quite heavily plagiarized the ugly duckling).

What were your favourite books as a child?

I had a book called Catwitch that I absolutely loved. It was about this runaway cat that got trained up by a witch. I really liked The Velveteen Rabbit. I mainly loved funny books and books where the characters went off and had adventures. So Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis were also firm favourites.

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for writing?

I’m not always sure. But sometimes daydreams. Sometimes I’ll be daydreaming and snap out of it, and realize I’ve been coming up with something. Other times a funny event will spark something, that will make me think, ‘I would love to write about that.’

I want to be a writer. Do you have any advice?

Well, lots of people will tell you read lots, and keep a diary, and that is good advice.  On top of that, I would say:

  • Think about what you like and dislike in other books, and why, then try to re-create what you do like.

  • I think it’s important to find your own voice and express yourself (not what you imagine other people want you to write).

  • With comedy writing, quite often it can be spotting what’s funny rather than completely creating it. Funny stuff happens around us all the time, but not everyone notices. As well as (or instead of) a diary you can keep a notebook on you and jot down anything you notice that sticks out as funny or odd.

  • Enjoy it.

  • Keep going! Unfortunately writing can be a hard road, with lots of rejection (unless you are super-lucky). Good luck!

What made you want to write about a character like Jessica?

I really like the idea of someone like Jessica being the hero. I wanted to write about a character who was a bit of an underdog, but actually doing better than she realized. I like the idea of someone being silly, funny, nerdy and insecure, but still winning in the end.

When I was at school I was never the best at anything. And sometimes I felt underrepresented when other stories, and films and TV seemed to be about someone being brilliant at sport or dancing, or being clever. I thought, ‘where are my people? Where are the idiots who are fun to be with? I will have to fix this by writing about it.’ So I wanted to write the kind of book I would have liked to read, and that lead to Jessica.

Is she you?

My Gran thinks that the books are just a documentary of my early years, but they aren’t. Don’t listen to my Gran; I made loads of it up. Having said that, there are similarities between Jessica and myself. But that’s partly because you have to write about what you know. Like Jessica, I used to love drawing cartoons and pictures.

Did you help when it came to the illustrations?

No, I’m out of practice now. We had a fantastic illustrator called Sarah Horne to do them for us. I described some of the things I thought would be good and she came back with illustrations that were better than I could ever have hoped for. They're perfect for the books and I'm so glad we had Sarah to do them.

Will there be a film or TV series of the books? And if so, can I please be in it?

I don’t know. I can’t help you with that I’m afraid.

Will you come to my school?

I am coming to some schools with the Bookbuzz scheme, and doing a few visits to festivals and things. There’s more information on my events page here.

How can we contact you?

You can email me here: thatwilkins@gmail.com

Or go through my publisher: Nosy Crow

Nosy Crow
The Crow’s Nest
10a Lant Street