Monday, 15 October 2012

Interview with Keith Austin (Author of GRYMM!)

GRYMM is a surreal, creepy spine-shivery tale peopled with characters from your worst nightmares!
The small mining town of GRYMM perched on the very edge of the Great Desert is the kind of town you leave - but when Dad gets a three-month contract in the mine there, Mina and Jacob, unwilling stepbrother and sister, are reluctantly arriving. From a grotesque letting agent who seems to want to eat their baby brother, a cafe owner whose milkshakes contain actual maggots and the horribly creepy butcher, baker and candlestick-maker, Mina and Jacob soon realize that nothing in GRYMM is what is appears to be. And then things get seriously weird when their baby brother disappears - and no one seems to even notice! In Grymm, your worst nightmares really do come true...

We were lucky enough to grab author Keith Austin and ask him these questions written by our very own Kalina, aged 11, from our Tuesday afternoon bookclub!

1) How did you get the idea for the story?
Well, it came from a few different places. A long time ago I wrote an idea in my notebook (I try to carry one with me wherever I go) about a brother and sister who go to live in a terribly English village and slowly discover that everyone else there is a nursery rhyme character.
And that idea sat there for maybe 20 years! Then, a few years ago when I was driving through the outback in Australia I stopped in a little town that made me wonder how the people there managed to make a living. And suddenly, the two ideas just came together. I was also reading the original Brothers Grimm fairytales at the time so they their grotesqueness and nastiness sort of edged their way in, too, in the children’s names (named after Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) and some other bits and pieces. Did you get the Grimm fairytale reference in the anagram of one character’s name?

2) Why did you make the main characters siblings and not just friends?
I think the relationship between a brother and sister is more complicated, more of a love/hate than a relationship between friends. Also, I liked the idea of them having a half-brother that they hated more than each other. And, of course, if they were not related they probably wouldn’t both be going to Grymm!

3) Why was Bryan kidnapped?
At the risk of revealing too much of the plot Bryan isn’t really kidnapped – you need to think about what the children’s deepest, darkest desire was when they first arrived in the town…

4) Why is Thespa Grymm just a realtor rather than the mayor of Grymm?
Well, the town isn’t really big enough to have a mayor – and I liked the idea of a real-estate agent in a town that’s basically drying up and dying. A rather pointless job, you might think, but Thespa stays there …why?

5) Where did the names of the characters, Anhanga and Bugleslab, come from?

Anhanga is actually the name Brazilian Amazon Indians give to a devil who is a prankster who likes to trick humans and also likes to steal children. I thought it fitted the character quite well. Inky Bugleslab comes from my time working in newspapers; he is the newsagent, as you know. I used to know a designer who used to call newspaper information panels ‘bugleslabs’, so I used that. And Inky, well, because newspapers use ink!

6) When you first wrote the story, were there more or less town folk?
There were a few more townsfolk in the first draft but it all started getting a bit too long and too confusing, to be perfectly honest. I haven’t killed them off completely, though! They’re still hanging around somewhere in my head and in my computer.

7) How long did it take you to write the book?
The first draft took me about 3 months to write (it just sort of poured out of me as if it had been waiting to be born), but I have rewritten it many times in the 9 years (yes!) since then.

8) Did you ever get writer’s block and how did you get rid of it?

Well, certainly not with this book! But it can occasionally happen, yes, and I find it’s best to just keep writing and keep reading. Both are essential for the writing process. I just write and write and eventually something pops up even if I have to delete most of it. And I find reading other people’s books can sometimes give me ideas about how to work my way around obstinate obstacles.

9) Will you write a sequel?
I’d like to, yes. I have some ideas about where the story goes – and it will start immediately where the first book ends – but that will only happen if Grymm is popular enough. I have written another book, called Snow, White, which will I hope will come out in the next 18 months or so, but it’s nothing like Grymm. Indeed where Grymm is steaming hot and sunny this one is freezing cold and dark. Oh, and if there is a sequel I want to call it Grymmer!

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