Michelle Robinson is a picture book author and a native of Gloucestershire, England, where she spent her childhood roaming the countryside, observing ladybugs and the finer qualities of cows. Her previous works include ‘Goodnight Tractor’, ‘What To Do If an Elephant Stands on Your Foot’ (there’s not much you can do, I’m thinking), and ‘Ding Dong Gorilla!’ She lives in Frome, England with her husband and two small children.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for kids from one to ninety-two. Most of my stories become picture books.
Henry: So, ninety-three year-olds are right out?
Tell us about your latest book.
’How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth’ is a playful advice manual for owners of prehistoric pets, although the wisdom within its pages can pretty much be applied to any reluctant bathers (apart from the bit with the heavy duty crane).
Henry: ’How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth’ was very helpful. Can you offer any practical advice for dealing with Saber Tooth Tiger hairballs and Apatosaurus sore throats?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
A big grin, a little wonderment, a warm and fuzzy feeling – and a no-tears hair wash next bath night.
Henry: And who couldn’t benefit from all of those things? No one, that’s who.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Getting published. It’s about as easy as getting a mammoth into a bathtub.
Henry: But at least you don’t get soaked or squashed in the process.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
The answers only come from putting words down. Staring at a blank sheet of paper will get you nowhere. Even if you don’t know where it’s going, write.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I met my husband through writing, so giving birth to my children. Everything, really. Writing is part of who I am.
Henry: Best. Answer. Ever.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write. Read. Write some more. Repeat. Believe in your stories and don’t let anything intimidate you.
Henry: You go, girl!
Do you have any favorite quotes?
”Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” – Roald Dahl
Henry: Nice. I also like “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” from Stephen King
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I drink a lot of tea. I can get cold when I write, so I often type in bed wearing fingerless gloves. I find mess and muddles distracting, so I have to make sure the house is tidy before I write.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To heal very sick children.
Henry: A lovely choice, despite having nothing to do with books.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
A.A. Milne, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie so I could thank them for a happy childhood.
Henry: Lovely choices. The bad boy in me forces me to share this A.A. Milne homage.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Maybe the psammead from ‘Five Children and It’. He’s a mischievous sand-nymph who grants wishes.
Henry: A unique response. But they come with the caveat that the wishes will turn to stone at sunset. This, apparently, used to be the rule in the Stone Age, when all children wished for was food, the bones of which then became fossils.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Eat cake. I also like to do this when I am writing.
Henry: The siren’s call of cake cannot be denied. Nor pie’s. On a related note, author Maggie Stiefvater’s Twitter bio says, “I sometimes eat cookies at inappropriate times.” My first thought upon reading that was, when are cookies inappropriate?
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Where can readers find your work?
All the usual places – your local independent bookstore, B&N, Amazon, etc. – but watch out. There are two Michelle Robinsons, as well as the one who married your President, so look for the picture book author in England. My website has plenty of colouring sheets and audio games to accompany my books. Find me at http://michellerobinson.co.uk/
Henry: I’m wondering if you would wrangle a free White House tour out of that coincidence…
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.