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Mitchell Symons: Happily Never After

6 September 2013 Mary Howell

Prior to his book release on the 3rd October, which happens to be this year's National Poetry day, London Calling talks to Author Mitchell Symons about naughty children, the value of poetry, great music and treats us to a waterfall of trivia.

London Calling: What inspired you to become a Children’s Author?

Mitchell Symons: I’d written about 30 ‘adult’ books when I was invited to write a children’s book. It sold well and, twenty children’s books later, I’m still writing them! I haven’t given up on the adult books though.

LC: The book, Happily Never After: Modern Cautionary Verse is a modern reworking of Hilaire Belloc’s 1907 original. They were classic stories of children who foolishly didn’t take the advice they were told and consequently came to an unpleasant fate. Did you read them as a child?

MS: Yes and I loved them!

LC: His original tales were really quite gruesome, chiefly Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death and Jim: Who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a Lion! Your poems are not only relevant to children of today, but seam a little less sinister. Like Bill: whose ability to fart ended in tears and Chloe: whose determination to have the most Facebook friends meant she lost her real ones. I suspect you have a few dark tales lurking somewhere though. What’s the most gruesome story in your new adaptation?

MS: And here was me thinking they were TOO sinister. What part of children being killed by fire/having their brains fried or being killed crossing a street struck you as not very sinister! In truth, I think they’re on the same sort of level as Belloc’s but, apart from that, they’re very different.

LC: Your previous work doesn’t include any poetry, why the change?

MS: No poetry at all. I haven’t written any since I was 17 or 18 and I’d pay you good money NOT to read those!

LC: Does your book, like the original, have a happy ending?

MS: Yes it does. I’ve got a poem about William Tobias Patterson-Meads: Who was a really nice guy and so became an immense success.

LC: The release of Happily Never After: Modern Cautionary Verse coincides with National Poetry Day. Do you think it’s important to raise the nation’s awareness and appreciation of poetry

MS: Yes, I do. There are things that can be said in poems that simply can’t be said elsewhere.

LC: The next poet Laureate will be announced on the same day. All we know is that they’re from Birmingham, any idea of who it might be?

MS: Who even knew that Birmingham had a poet? Sorry, Brummies!

LC: Rumour has it that you used to be a writer for trivial pursuit. This years National Poetry Day theme is Water, have any fun facts about that?

MS: - Cockroaches can survive underwater for 15 minutes.

- Adult earwigs can float in water for up to 24 hours.

- If you yelled for eight years, seven months and six days, you would have produced enough sound energy to heat enough water for one cup of tea.

- Sound moves faster through water than it does through air.

- Giraffes can live without water for longer than camels can.

- An ant can survive for two weeks underwater.

- Pigeons are the only birds that can drink water without having to raise their heads to swallow. Other birds need gravity to help them swallow.

- Whenever Beethoven sat down to write music, he poured ice water over his head.

- 80 per cent of the noise a hippo makes is done underwater.

- Koalas rarely drink water, but get fluids from the eucalyptus leaves they eat. In fact, ‘koala’ is believed to mean ‘no drink’ in an Aboriginal language.

- The only rock that floats in water is pumice.

- One third of all the fresh water on Earth is in Canada.

- If you slowly pour a handful of salt into a totally full glass of water, it will not overflow. In fact, the water level will go down.

- Hot water freezes more quickly than cold water.
 
Enough?

LC: What’s your formula for a good writing session; pot of tea, favourite pen, beautiful view?

MS: Great music. Miles Davis, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young.

LC: Who is your favourite poet?

MS: Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith (dead); John Cooper Clark (alive). They should have made JCC the Poet Laureate long ago.

LC: What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

MS: Write, write and write some more. Also, read.

Happy Never After: Modern Cautionary Verse will be available from 3rd October. We’ve got five copies to give away so to be in with a chance of getting your hands on one, head over to our competition.

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