Paul Shipton is an exciting new voice in children's fiction. His debut novel Bug Muldoon and the Garden of Fear was an hilarious homage to the hard-boiled fiction of Raymond Chandler et al, relocated to the "backyard jungle".
Born: Manchester, June 15th 1963
Jobs: Teacher, Book Editor
Lives: Wisconsin, USA
First Book: Zargon Zoo, 1991
Paul Shipton attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Manchester University. He completed an MPhil in Philosophy and an MA in Classics and then went on to teach English as a foreign language, living in Istanbul for a year. Returning to the UK, he spent several years teaching English as a foreign language. At around this time, he published his first book, Zargon Zoo - in his own words, "a fairly daft science fiction story written for people learning English". Four years later came Paul's breakthrough book, the hilarious Bug Muldoon and the Garden of Fear. Paul and his family have recently moved to the U.S., where he works as a freelance editor and writer. He says that although he is enjoying life there, moving has made him realise how British he really is - he finds himself pining for things like British crisps, soap operas, villages, pubs and double decker buses to name a few.
WHAT HE SAYS...
"I had a vague idea that I wanted to write a story about animals which weren't cute and cuddly, and were totally different from people. I was trying to think of story ideas and the name of Bug Muldoon popped into my head. I had always liked the 'hard boiled' style of detective books by writers like Raymond Chandler, and the name struck me as right for that kind of character. I just put the two together."
"I got the idea for Bug Muldoon, not surprisingly, in the back garden watching some insects. I was amazed at this violent battle going on below me - all while I was contentedly sipping my Ribena! It seemed natural to make the book a detective story - instead of the urban jungle, the backyard jungle."
"I got the idea for The Mighty Skink when my wife and I visited a safari park in our beloved first car. A gang of monkey yobs leapt on it and set about shredding the vinyl roof. That scene, or something like it, is in the book."
"I'm really not sure that I wanted to be a writer when I was growing up. I did read quite a bit, but I think I wanted to be the characters in the books - footballer, Viking, space cadet, whatever I happened to be reading. At some point I suppose my ambitions changed - a good thing really, as I am a lousy footballer and I have been known to be seasick."
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT PAUL SHIPTON...
"A rollercoaster of an adventure which is a genuine thriller. Readers won't be able to put it down." Carousel on Bug Muldoon and the Garden of Fear
"A funny and enjoyable book - well worth the read." Word Up on Bug Muldoon and the Garden of Fear
"There is plenty of action to sustain the interest and thoughtful readers will enjoy the clear stream of satirical comment, not unlike Animal Farm. Paul Shipton's story deserves a wide readership." Junior Bookshelf on The Mighty Skink
Worldwide Exclusive: The Interview of the Year
Meet Gryllus the world famous star of The Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton
‘You think you know me, but you have no idea…’
What you are about to read is an exclusive excerpt from a major archaeological find. Discovered deep in the soil of a campground in northern Greece, this interview with Gryllus was carved onto a large stone tablet with the heading The Daily Lyre. (So just imagine how hard it was to have a newspaper round back then.) Before this archaeological treasure begins a tour of the world’s major museums — London, Paris, New York, Little Pilkington-by-the-Sea — the interview has been given to puffin.co.uk as part of a worldwide exclusive, revealing more than ever about Ancient Greece’s most heroic pig.
So, Gryllus tell us…
For the benefit of those who have not had access to the world-famous Pig Scrolls, can you tell us how you came to be a talking pig?
Well, I used to be a human, of course. I was a soldier in the Trojan War and, let me tell you, that was no picnic in the park. Then I was a crewman on Odysseus’ ship heading home to Ithaca, and that was no pleasure cruise, what with monsters and terrible storms and angry gods taking aim at us. To top it all off, we landed on this mysterious island, which turned out to be the home of the enchantress Circe. When she magically turned me and some of the other lads into pigs, I was glad to have a bit of peace and quiet, after all we’d been through. (Well they do say a change is as good as a rest.)
Could you summarise your role in the events that have resulted in your heroic status?
Well, it all began when a certain young prophetess from Delphi told me that the universe was in a spot of trouble. The Olympian gods couldn’t do a thing to help and there were terrible monsters on the loose all over the place. A lot of people might have been scared away, of course, but not this porker. I laugh at danger. I do. If there’s a high-risk situation, you’ll find me nearby chuckling at it. So naturally I agreed right away. I guess that’s the difference between us heroes and you normal, unheroic sorts. (At this point of the interview a young woman interrupted us, calling Gryllus a ‘big, fat liar’ and demanding that he tell the truth about what really happened. She went on to say something about her having to kidnap Gryllus and force him to help save the world. At last she left, shaking her head angrily.) Er... that’s Sibyl, don’t mind her. She’s a lovely girl but she’s a few columns short of the full colonnade, if you know what I mean.
You had the opportunity to meet many of the great Gods, including the one and only Zeus — can you dish any dirt on the wise ones?
Well, I can tell you something about Zeus that’s so disgusting it’ll blow your sandals off in amazement. He never changes his underp– Wait a minute! Are those storm clouds over there? Is that thunder I hear? Um, well anyway... as I was saying, Zeus is a completely brilliant King of the Gods and a particularly good aim with thunderbolts from on high. That’s all! Next question, please. Quickly!
Your fame is spreading rapidly across the world. How do you find ways to keep your trotters on the ground?
That’s a good question, especially the bit about my fame spreading. The thing is, I won’t let fame go to my head. (Mind you, I might let it go to my stomach, which is also spreading rapidly.) I’m still the same old Gryllus — a pig of simple tastes. I still enjoy eating and drinking and sleeping and... er, lots of other things that I haven’t got time to mention right now. I don’t expect people to treat me any differently than before either, although if they really want to shower me with gifts because of my heroic deeds, that’s fine. No, really, it’s absolutely fine. They can send me anything at all, but cash or baked goods would be best.
Some people would say you showed yourself to be a cowardly pig throughout the story of The Pig Scrolls. How would you respond to this charge?
What! Cowardly, ME? Who said that? Give me their names and I’ll nip round and give them a good kicking... er, unless they’re bigger than me, that is, in which case I’m open to discussion, as any reasonable talking pig would be.
Do you ever wish you could have remained a human and avoided all this limelight and adventure?
No use wishing about what’s been and gone. As a wise philosopher once said, ‘If wishes were pies, not many people would be able to fit through the door.’ Actually, I’m not sure what that means, but I do like pies. Anyway, I don’t think it would have made much difference if I’d remained human. The Fates had picked me out to save the cosmos, whatever form I was in. It’s not easy escaping your destiny and, believe me, I’ve tried.
You must be inundated with requests for appearances in amphitheatres and therefore we must thank you for taking the time to join us today. Is there anything more you would like to say to our readers before you go?
I’d just like to say one thing — If you don’t know The Pig Scrolls, there is a serious gap in your cultural knowledge and other children will probably mock you. For gods’ sake, don’t let this happen! Go straight to your village storyteller and tell him or her not to bother reciting the Iliad (the Greeks win in the end, that’s all you need to know) or the Odyssey (Odysseus gets home). They should get cracking on The Pig Scrolls instead!
Yes. Can I get paid for this interview in pies, please?
Manchester; 15 June 1963
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (maybe)
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
Photos of my two daughters as newborns
'Moondance' by Van Morrison
FAVOURITE FILM: It's a Wonderful Life
When did you start writing?
I loved writing stories in primary school, and I had a great teacher who encouraged everyone to be as inventive as possible. But as I got older I sort of lost interest for a while. I still read a lot, but I never really thought about becoming a writer. It was only when I was a teacher of English to foreign students that I started writing again. The first book I had published was a (fairly daft) science fiction story written for people learning English.
Where do you get your ideas?
I got the idea for Bug Muldoon, not surprisingly, in the back garden watching some insects. I was amazed at this violent battle going on below me - all while I was contentedly sipping my Ribena! It seemed natural to make the book a detective story - instead of the urban jungle, the backyard jungle. I got the idea for The Mighty Skink when my wife and I visited a safari park in our beloved first car. A gang of monkey yobs leapt on it and set about shredding the vinyl roof. That scene, or something like it, is in the book.
Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?
1. Read lots.
2. Write lots.
3. Don't get discouraged.
Umm, perhaps Christmas when I was little. Or maybe climbing to the top of a pyramid in Egypt and looking out on the Sahara.
Favourite place in the world and why?
I find it tough to pick my favourite anything, but my favourite place is probably one of the following: Cornwall, Dublin, Edinburgh, Kinsale (in Ireland), London, Istanbul. I've learned one thing about myself - my favourite place is never where I'm living at the moment!
What are your hobbies?
It's pathetic, but I don't really have any. I ride my bike quite a lot - does that count?
If you hadn't been a writer, what do you think you would have been?
I'm not a writer - or, at least, not only a writer.
I also work as an editor of textbooks for high schools in America, where I live. (This job isn't something I ever dreamed of! When other kids were talking about being pop stars or astronauts, I never said I wanted to be in an office editing books. It just happened!) If I weren't a writer and editor, I think I'd still be a teacher.