Colin Bateman, Class Clown
The crime author has re-published a children's novel and plans to tour schools throughout Northern Ireland
Who/what/where/why/when is Colin Bateman?
I'm the author of more than 30 novels, including eight for children. I've written for the big screen and created the long running BBC TV series Murphy's Law. I was also recently made a Doctor of Letters by the University of Ulster for my services to literature.
You are best known as a comedic and, at times, hard-hitting crime author, but you also write books for children. What attracted you to the genre?
I've written eight books so far for children, and it's something I love doing. I started because I really wanted to write something that my son could read and enjoy, so that he knew what I did for a living, really. And when I was growing up there never seemed to be books set in Northern Ireland that reflected the way we lived, and our sense of humour.
So I wrote Running with the Reservoir Pups and it went down extremely well. That was nearly ten years ago. It went out of print a while back, and I decided as an experiment to re-publish it myself in an edition purely for schools. It's hard to get kids to go into a bookshop these days, so I decided to take the book directly to them. I hit the road with it last year and so far I've done readings at about 60 schools around Northern Ireland. I love it!
Do you enjoy writing for a younger audience as much as writing fiction for adults?
It's certainly not any easier – if anything, it's harder. But I love a challenge. It's important that you capture the audience's imagination right from the start, and hopefully all of my children's books do that. The reader has to care about the characters, and, hopefully they have a good laugh as well. I think humour is very important.
You're about to embark on a new tour of schools with the book. What will you be doing exactly?
I talk to kids in the eight to 12 age group about how I became a writer, and encourage them to think about creative writing and reading. Then I read a bit and finally take questions.
Kids are the discerning readers of tomorrow. What do you get out of reading at a schools?
You get tremendous feedback and the sessions are always lively. Adult events can be quite restrained, and when you ask if anyone has a question at the end, most people usually stare at their feet. They usually do have questions, but are too shy to ask. In schools, as soon as you ask, nearly every hand goes up.
What do you think the children get out of it?
Hopefully they get enthusiastic about reading, and quietly ambitious about their own writing. It's also good for them to see that writers are (relatively) normal human beings, and, I suppose, to see someone from Northern Ireland who has made a success of writing. Sometimes we have a tendency to think we're not as good as everyone else, and I think that's something that starts at school. Actually we're as good as everyone else, maybe better!
What's the best question you've ever been asked by a pupil?
What tends to happen is that you get all the relatively straight forward questions at the start: where do you get your ideas from, why do you write for children, what's your favourite book... But then, as time goes on, what they really want to know comes out... and that usually revolves around money! And what football team I support. (Liverpool, obviously).
It can depend on where you are in the country. I was in Portavogie and I was asked what my favourite fish was. I was up in the country near Ballymena and I was asked what my favourite type of tractor was. So kids don't stand on ceremony, they ask the question that is of most interest to them, which is great.
The oddest question I had, which was the very first in the session, was, 'Do you have insurance?' I wasn't sure if his dad was an insurance broker or if it was some kind of threat!
Which schools will you be visiting and when?
I'm currently setting up a tour around Northern Ireland which will last throughout March and April. Interested schools can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or my website, ColinBateman.com.
Do you see yourself writing more books for children?
I hope to start work on a new one just after Easter that will be out for the autumn.
Finally, were you a hard-working, attentive pupil yourself, or were you a dreamer?
I was always a bit of a dreamer, and really not very good at school – not even at English. I always dreamed of being a writer, though, but thought that they were some kind of gods who were super smart and knew all the answers to all the big questions, and understood poetry. Now I know that they aren't!