Matt Stanton is a best-selling children’s author and illustrator*. The first of his Funny Kid series, Funny Kid for President, debuted* as the number one Australian kids’ book. Matt lives in Sydney with his wife, best-selling* picture book creator Beck Stanton, and their three young children, who are too young yet to read his books.
Kids News asked Matt some questions on writing and drawing.
Here’s what he told us.
What were you like before you were a grown up?
I’ve always loved books and loved drawing and so I always did a lot of that. I was the kid that was always drawing. And the drawing I used to do was find a particular character that me and my friends all liked, like a superhero or a character from the Simpsons (TV show) and learn how to draw it so that I could then draw it for my friends.
I used to write funny stories and tried to make people laugh.
A key* moment for me when I was 11 and I wrote a funny story in class. The principal got me to read the story out in front of everyone in the school and I was very shy but I did it and the experience of reading something I had written and making them all laugh, even kids I was scared to talk to, was life changing.
When you were a kid, were you like any of your characters?
Max the funny kid (character) is very loosely based on me. He gets into a lot more trouble than I did. He does thing I thought about doing but may not have done.
He’s like me, but fully explored.
He’s more shameless* than I was but Max shares that experience of realising that being able to make people laugh is fantastic but harder than it looks.
How much of what happens in your books is from your life now?
It’s not really based on my own experience and I suspect that makes me a little bit different.
I write books for people. I was visiting kids in grades 3-6 reading other books I had written but I didn’t have books for them.
I spend most of my time thinking about kids that I meet and thinking “what’s the most outlandish* thing that would happen in their classroom?” I exaggerate.
Do your children read your books?
I read with them every day but they’re a bit young for my books.
Do adults understand these books? If our parents or teachers don’t think they’re funny what should we say to them?
I think mostly (they do understand them).
I’m creating books that don’t teach kids too much but mostly I want to give kids a wonderful fun time with books so that they go on and feel empowered* to use books as exploration*.
There’s a lot of bodily function humour and I don’t really care what (adults) think if the kids are enjoying it.
Kids should say: Reading should be fun and I find these books fun!
My mission* statement is: Not every child says they love to read but every child loves to laugh.
How do you write your books?
For the Funny Kid books I have a cast of five main characters in this series and I know what drives each of them, what sort of deeper motivator* they have. So I have database* of ideas of things that each of these characters might do. I think, would Max do this? And I refer to this database all the time.
It’s how sitcoms* get written, with a cast and they all respond in different ways.
I make a plot outline, then there’s a layering process, a short outline, longer outline, first draft and second draft and then the editorial team (at the publishing company) polishing that up, then I start the illustrations. I have a big database of illustrations of each of the characters doing all sorts of things. It’s all digital.
I use a drawing tablet. I don’t have an office, my whole office fits into my satchel. I work outside, in the library, in hotel rooms.
How long does each one take?
Averages out at about 6 months a book. I want to write as many as kids want to read.
What is the hardest part about writing a book?
It is the writing. I find writing hard. I love it but it really is work and especially from about halfway through, perhaps the second third, that can be really hard work. You’re into it but a still long way from the end. But I love all of it.
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illustrated: made a picture of
debuted: opened, started
best-selling: the top selling one at the time
key: important, central
shameless: not caring, not being ashamed
outlandish: bizarre or unfamiliar
exploration: action of exploring
motivator: the thing that makes you do it
database: digital list
sitcoms: a type of comedy TV show, short for situation comedy
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