An interview with Heath McKenzie.
Heath McKenzie has, for a long time, been one of my favourite illustrators and authors. I am in awe of the life and energy in his amazing work. But, I’m even more jealous of how funny he is. His books are so full of fun and craziness that it’s unfair to have all that talent. However, he has kindly agreed to meet with me today, so all is forgiven.
Heath is a giant in Australian children’s literature, even if he’s too modest to admit it. He has a long list of best-selling books and amazing artwork. He’s even been on the telly! Ladies and gentlemen, put your funny hands together for Heath McKenzie – Woo-hoooo!
Welcome Heath and thanks for joining us today.
Thanks for having me.
Firstly, we recently reviewed your latest book Butt Out! and absolutely fell over with laughter (check out review here). But, the question everyone’s asking now is, when you wrote it, were you pants free?
I’ll leave that to your imagination! Don’t want to give away trade secrets!
Do you have any thoughts on humour in kids books and its role in literature?
Humour is super important! If something makes you laugh you’ll tend to be drawn to it, so it pulls you in. So if something makes you laugh, it will only make you WANT to read it and then find more books that do the same.
Yes, so true!
Humour can also be a very clever way of getting more serious ideas or messages across. You can in fact laugh AND learn and not even realise you’ve learnt something ‘til it’s too late!
Ha, sucked in!
If you could go back in time and do anything differently as a child to be a better writer/illustrator as an adult, what would it be?
Maybe figure out I could be funny when required a bit earlier than I did! Didn’t really start honing the comedy skills ‘til high school – usually out of self-preservation/defence! (This is of course assuming I’m funny at all! It’s a very subjective thing – I might just be annoying).
What books make you laugh?
Hahahaha. And, you’re worried you’re not funny.
Okay Heath, being serious for a moment. Should pineapple ever be on a pizza?
It seems ANYTHING can be on pizza in these uncertain times – so why not! Preferably not MY pizza … but, y’know, someone else’s!
Who is your funniest fictional character?
Good question – so many! But young people, do yourselves a favour and hop on the YouTube and find some old Looney Tunes Cartoons about the Three Bears. Comedy Gold right there!
If you were in a classroom, a boring lecture or heaven forbid, a tedious interview, what’s your favourite thing to doodle?
Hands! Always like drawing hands. And, then also probably random patterns!
Are you doodling right now?
As an author/illustrator what would be your spirit animal?
Lemur. They have little hands – good for holding pencils. And the tails – good for holding other pencils! And then big eyes – great for detail work!
When a funny idea first comes to mind, do you sketch it straight out, or would you write it out or play it over in your mind? What’s the process from funny in your mind to funny on paper?
If illustrating, I’ll sketch it straight out in the process. When writing – much the same, but in both cases, I’ll probably go back over it and either tweak it if I think it could be funnier. Or leave it be, trusting I came up with a real comedy gem straight out!
You’re a funny guy, I mean funny haha, do you think funny can be learnt or is it instinctive?
I think it might be a bit of both! Instinctive at first, but once you recognise it and enjoy it, you start to seek out more funny and so inadvertently learn from that.
What tip would you give someone who wants to write or create a funny story?
Don’t worry about whether or not other people will find it funny. If YOU think it’s funny, someone else out there will too!
Great advice. Thanks for your time Heath.
To check out more Heath McKenzie – his awesome illustrations, his books, author bio, FAQ and more, go to his website: https://www.heathmck.com/
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