Cheltenham Literary Festival

shoo rayner and axel stormI had a great time at Cheltenham Literary Festival this morning where I filled in for James Mayhew, who has tonsillitis and was not well enough to talk to two hundred and something children.

I took a lot of artwork from my new Axel Storm books. with the aid of a visualiser – a sort of digital overhead projector, I showed hundreds of drawing I did while trying to decide what Axel would look like.

Often I gain insights into my work when asked questions at school sessions. I had one such question today.

“Do any of your characters look like you?” I was asked. It dawned on me where Axel’s “mono eye” comes from. I was born with a cyst over my bright eye. As a teenager I grew my hair to cover it. I remember being quite proud of my cyst, but now I know what teenagers are like, I think I was probably quite self-conscious about it and covered it up. Next to this this early pencil drawing of Axel I had written the enigmatic phrase, “Analyse this!” There must have been something about the drawing that I thought needed further investigation. If you look at the inset photo of me above, black-eyed after I’d had my cyst removed, I think you can see a resemblance. Axel’s hair is over his left eye, but that’s not how I’d see it in the mirror.

So the answer is, Yes! Sometimes I do look like my characters – and the way I write them is often how I’d like to be or how I’d like to think I am!