What are The Odds? Ask Adam Perrott

First of all, in the form of a tweet could you tell us: what are The Odds?

The Odds are a family of Meddlers, or Professional Pranksters, whose job is to cause mischief and mayhem wherever they are. (I even had 18 characters to spare there!)

How did you come up with the idea of ‘professional pranksters’?

We all misplace things we had in our hands a second ago, or lose things we’re SURE we’d kept safe. Meddlers are definitely all around us, in every country in the world, I’m just the guy telling their story. Meddlers just popped up, to be honest, as Meddlers will. I wanted to create something, a new species, if you will, like Wombles or Moomins or Borrowers. Now we have Meddlers: creepy little snot-bags who trip you up and hide your stuff. But to be precise, a Professional Prankster is a Meddler fully qualified in Prankery and Prankification, those who haven’t yet are merely Trainee Tricksters.

The Odds is such a funny, entertaining read. How do you judge that your jokes will take off on the page? Do you run them by anyone? Or is it all your own finely-tuned comedic instincts?

My editor (for book 1 Katie Jennings, for book 2 Michelle Misra) gets first look. I don’t let anyone read anything before them (and my agent and agency editor at Darley Anderson, of course!). For me it’s a case of throwing enough gags at the page and hoping most of them stick. But I’m surrounded by supportive, encouraging guides at Stripes and Darley Anderson offering genuinely invaluable advice and I seriously would be lost without you all.

We love to hear about how our writers write. Accordingly, here are few quick questions about your writing habits.

Where do you write?

I have a study. Not an ‘office’. A study. It’s filled from floor to ceiling with books old and new, pristine and tatty, as well as old bottles, candles, knick-knacks, quills and inkpots and other miscellaneous paraphernalia I’ve hoarded over the years. It is my sanctuary but, as it’s by far the most eye-catching room in the house, my children find it fascinating and treat it like a museum.

When do you write?

Usually when my daughter (2) is asleep. Now it’s the summer holidays, though, NEVER! I also have an incredibly supportive wife who will take them out for entire Saturdays so I can work. Though I suspect they have a better time out and about without me lagging behind sulking and muttering about all the great works of literature that won’t ever exist if I don’t write them.

Do you have any rituals?

Actually, yes! The kid goes to bed, I make a cup of tea in a sort-of flask so it stays warm and I smoke a pipe. Yes, you read that correctly, I am a pipe-smoking gent-about-town. Sorry ladies, I’m taken…

Do you need silence? Or do you prefer noise?

I never write with any music or anything. Usually the noise is from my family screaming or fighting – with comedic crashes, bangs and whallops at regular intervals. I tried writing to some classical music once – Vaughn Williams, A Sea Symphony, but I don’t know if it made any difference to productivity. I know a few authors who write to music depending on the scene/style of their writing at the time – like fast music for fight scenes, etc., or film scores and soundtracks, but for what I’m writing, I think silence is best. I like to hear the voices in my head think.

Do you favour pen and paper? Or a computer? A classic Underwood No. 5 typewriter? Quill and parchment?

I bought my first and only computer over ten years ago from PC World. It’s an emachines laptop, as big as a breadboard, has zero battery life and no internet connection. I have no Microsoft Word, merely Microsoft Works Word Processing which the woman in the shop gave me when I grandly announced, “Woman! I am writing a book. Fetch me a computer to do it on!” It’s a piece of trash, but it’s my piece of trash and I love it.

What is your least favourite part of the writing process?

I don’t know if there is one. Editing can be hard work, especially when you lose a battle to keep something in you really wanted to keep. They say ‘pick your battles’ and that’s a good motto with editing. I have picked them, and lost a good few! That’s quite difficult. But it’s all for the greater good of the finished book and trust in your editor is essential. When they’re as good as the Stripes and DA crew, you’re laughing!

What is your most favourite part of the writing process?

Finishing a book, no matter how short or how bad, is a incredible feeling. I still feel achievement when I finish reading a book, so finishing writing one is that times a million. I love starting a book, too. Knowing you can go anywhere, do anything, play god with the little people in your brain. Power-tripping, I think they call it.

During your brief spare time between writing and sleeping what else do you like to do?

I really really like writing! If I have a spare second, I’ll be jotting like an excited trainspotter. I’ve so much I want to write. I do like going out for walks, though, especially with my boy now the nights are lighter and warmer. He’s turning into quite a little adventurer, so getting lost in the woods with him is fast becoming one of my favourite things to do. I was in a band years ago and even though we’re all grown-up now and all responsible and that, I still play now and again. Though my repertoire is more The Grand Old Duke of York and CBeebies themes than Purple Haze, I can still rock any playgroup you could name.

If they enjoyed The Odds (and they will) what other books/authors would you recommend to the followers of our blog?

You know all the big boys: Andy Stanton, Philip Ardagh, Roald Dahl. Tommy Donbavand writes funny horror in Scream Street, Barry Hutchison writes darker, but still funny (as in witty/sarcastic) horror with Invisible Fiends. My fellow Stripester Andy Robb had the honour of being Stripes first ever teen writer with his Geekhood book about him being a geek and that when he was a kid. I also love The Clumsies by Sorrell Anderson.

What was your favourite book as a child?
Matilda by the Dahlster. I just loved it most of all of his and I don’t really know why. When I worked in a bookshop, parents often wanted recommendations – especially for boys. They would worry that boys wouldn’t read books about girls, but I swear it only occurred to me in that shop that Matilda was a book about a girl. I’m not mental, it’s just that to me, it was just a brilliant book. Funny, grotesque, it had practical jokes in (which probably sat in my subconscious until now when I was writing The Odds) and it just consumed me. It would be 3am on a school night, but I would go and pick it up off my shelf and start reading it again for no reason. I still have my very first copy.

What do you think makes a great book for children?

I do. JOKE! And lots of things. In all honesty, who knows? There are brilliant books that no one knows about and very average books that people go mad about. I think finding an original voice is the most important thing. It’s been said before, but finding your style is the most important thing. The Odds wasn’t the most original idea in the world, but the publisher rejections all mentioned the style/tone of the book and how ‘fresh’ they thought it was.

We all get at least a laugh a day here at DA from following you on twitter. Could you share your own personal top 5 tweeted one-liners with us? (You should all be following @RealAdamPerrott on twitter. Trust us.)

Tough one. I love jokes, puns and one-liners, despite the bad rap they get and the inevitable ‘groan factor’. I love wordplay in general, especially nonsense and try to tweet an original joke at least once a day. Some days I can’t, other days I do three or four, so it kind of evens out. Here’s a rough top five. You can all use these, but tell people where you got ’em, ok?!

5. Tarmac is right up my street.

4. Quasimodo. Ring any bells?

3. I once did a GCSE in honey-making. I got a B in it (followed by “I did another in bonnet-making. Got a B in that, too” – bonus joke there!)

2. Tried to catch fog. Mist.

And my all-time favourite joke…

1. Two giraffes have a race. Neck and neck all the way.

Before we go, what would be your advice for aspiring writers?

Write like you! Sounds crazy, but if you’re funny – write funny. If you’re sad – write sad. You like big, fancy words that no one understands? Write big fancy words that no one understands. That goes for a covering letter and CV too. I’ve got to places and met with people a man of my formal education should not get to or meet, but taking a risk and writing what you know in YOUR style can make a world of difference to your writing. Be you – it’s all you’ve got.

And what was it about DA that made you feel we were the agency for you? (No need to spare our blushes, we can take it.)

It’s extremely well-documented that Darley Anderson is home to the best-looking all-female team in publishing (except Darley, I know he’s a man). I just loved the general ethos of the agency. You really seemed to care about talent, especially finding new talent and making them a success. You have some of the biggest names in publishing on your lists and yet your drive to discover new voices is genuinely refreshing and unlike any other agency. So many don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts, or you see them on Twitter or Facebook badmouthing the lack of ‘good’ or ‘original’ stuff they receive which I think is very bad form, yet DA openly clamour for more manuscripts. That’s a special thing. Everything about you is encouraging and guiding, some of the greatest, most encouraging and helpful advice I’ve ever received was from the Darley Anderson Literary Agency and it is still an honour to count myself as one of your authors.

Lastly, tell us, will we be seeing more of The Odds in the future?

There will be at least one more next year which I’m very excited about. Personally, I’d love the series to run and run, which I think it definitely could and should! But it all depends on my beautiful, beautiful publishers… There are lots more adventures the Odds can have yet, and I’m very eager to tell them!

The Odds by Adam Perrott, published by Stripes, is out now!

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