08 October 2013

How the Guinea Pigs got their Mystery

This, O my Best Beloved, is a story - a new and a wonderful story - a story quite different from the other stories - a story of co-operation.

We tend to think of book-writing as a solo occupation. One writer, head exploding with ideas. One writer, alone with a blank page. One writer, huddled over their typewriter [Macbook Air], in a drafty garret [comfortable study], looking out over Paris [Preston], their housekeeper [husband] putting plates of cheese sandwiches [cheese sandwiches] through the door in a desperate attempt to sustain the lonely genius.

Well, sometimes that's true (especially the Paris bit), but sometimes books are a much more collaborative effort. Sometimes it takes brains sparking off each other to create the magic.

Sometime-solo-genius Ursula Dubosarsky talks about what it was like to be part of the brain stew that created The Cryptic Casebooks of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta) :


They often tell you in writing classes - write about something you love. Well, three things I love are:
guinea pigs,
detective stories,
and the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I have always loved guinea pigs. The first book I published for children was about a guinea pig, and they have scampered into several of my other books since. My love of detective stories also began in childhood, and it's been a long-term ambition to write one myself.  Buenos Aires, admittedly, is a love that appeared later in life. My husband grew up there, so we have returned to visit several times over the years, and what a grand, intense and beautiful city it is. And of course, guinea pigs do come from South America...

But how did these three loves find each other? 

Usually I sit quietly at home thinking of things to write, but in this case, publisher Anna MacFarlane suggested that she, I and illustrator Terry Denton get together one day and see if we might come up with an idea for a series of books that combined puzzles and problem-solving with the pleasures of character and narrative.

We sat and ate and drank and chatted and wondered and thought aloud, and Terry drew and doodled, and made us laugh (of course). And eventually, in one of those mysteries of creation, by the end of the day there was Coco, head poised, looking nervously about the room for possible clues for the most improbable of crimes...

Three books later, Coco and Alberta, Ursula, Terry and Anna have proved themselves a cracking good team.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I read The Perplexing Pineapple and loved it! Very funny. Straight away posted it to my eight-year-old niece, who tucked into it like, well, a guinea pig in a lettuce shop. No doubt she is (niece) is looking for the next book.

I loved the puzzles and the guinea pig Latin. The illustration of Alberta and Coco on a Vespa cracked me up because, well, because.