An Interview with Nat Amoore.
Today’s very special guest is passionate about encouraging kids to read and write and explore their imagination without boundaries. Her first middle grade novel ‘Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire’ is out now with Penguin Random House, with a second novel expected in 2020.
But even more impressive than that, she used to be a trapeze artist, had a pet kangaroo when she was little and her secret super power is making stuff up. Would you please go crazy for Nat Amoore! Woohoooo!
Hi Nat, thanks for joining us. I’m super excited because I love chatting with silly people, and I mean that as a true complement. I love silliness. Do you think silly could be an art form? And if so, who are some silly people that you admire?
Absolutely. And I do think that ‘silly’ is slightly different to ‘funny’ as well. Jim Carrey was a huge inspiration to me when I was young. Rowan Atkinson was a big one for me too. Mary-Anne Fahey…I really wanted to be her so badly.
Then in the book world, Paul Jennings. But then again I’m not sure if they all consider themselves ‘silly’, or if that’s just their characters/writing.
I am definitely silly. Like all day, every day. It’s not an act or a character, it’s how I live my life and always have. I feel very sorry for my parents and now my partner.
What’s your funniest sounding word and why?
Rambunctious. It’s just the best word. It sounds hilarious but it also sounds exactly like what it is. And it describes me quite nicely. So it’s a win-win-win.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or spirit animal?
My Chinese horoscope animal is a monkey. I’m not sure anything more needs to be said.
Okay, we’ll end it there. Thanks for joining us today.
Hey, what books would you like to see more of?
I’m a huge fan of the diversity movement. I want to see more diverse characters in books and more books written by #ownvoices. I always want my books to reflect the world I live in, and my world is full of people from a wide range of backgrounds, families, genders, sexualities, abilities, personalities.
I want my books to look like my world. It’s really important to me. But I also think we really need to do what we can to support #ownvoices too because it’s not just about diverse characters, it’s about diverse story tellers.
Every kid needs to see themselves in the books they read and the voices that are telling them those stories.
Do you have any thoughts on humour and its role in children’s literature?
It is soooooooo important! Every kind of story has its place in kid lit. Because every kid is looking for something different at different times in their lives and they need as much choice and selection as possible so they can continue to find what they love.
Funny books, and yes even the farts and bums, deserve as much respect as the literary and heart-breaking. It’s not about US, it’s about the kids. It’s about them being able to read what they love, otherwise they won’t read.
You had me at farts!
Some people suggest that it’s an easy win to write humour and sell big, but it’s not. Kids have a super keen sense of humour and there is a reason why the big guns in humour sell so well….THEY ARE FUNNY…and kids love them. And if we aren’t creating kids books for kids, then what are we doing? We need to have quiet books, sad books, poetic books, funny books, adventurous books, fantasy books, because not all kids are the same and not all kids need the same kind of book all the time.
Wow, I love your passion, particularly toward being kid focussed. It’s so great to see a writer so attentive to their audience. Awesome!!
Who are some of your funniest and favourite fictional characters?
For Books – Lyra Belacqua.
Movies – Inigo Montoya.
TV – any of The Muppets (can’t pick a fav).
Let me help you out.
Now, your character Tess, in Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire, is quite intelligent and likable. So witty and funny. What do you think makes a great character? And, what makes a character funny?
I think a great character is one that is real while being the most of something. I think the best characters are highly flawed. Because they feel real but they are interesting and three dimensional.
No one’s perfect, even if we think they are. Tess could have easily been unlikable due to some of her flaws but she’s not because she’s still discovering the person she is.
As adults we try to pretend things are black and white but there is SOOOOOO much grey in the world. Tess is finding her way through that grey. I wanted to let kids know they aren’t defined by their bad decisions, they’ll make plenty of them, I certainly have. You can make bad decisions and still be a good person. Learn from them and move on.
As far as funny goes, funny is just part of my DNA. For me it’s not about actually ‘cracking jokes’. It’s about how characters react to each other. The things they say before they have time to filter it. I have never ‘planned’ anything funny in my book, any big gags or set up situations for my characters so that I can have the gag pay off. They are just going along, doing their thing and the humour just comes through their personality and the way they deal with things. It’s very in line with how I am as a person.
What tip would you give someone looking to write or create a funny book?
Don’t try too hard. If funny is not your thing, don’t try and push yourself there because you think it’s what ‘the people’ want. You have to do you.
Weirdly enough, being funny is often about holding back. Find the funny books you love and admire and read them. See how the author does it. For me it’s R.A. Spratt. I think she is one of the funniest writers around. Her books are a masterclass in smart-funny.
Personally, I rely a lot on dialogue for my humour. My plot and situations aren’t overly funny, it’s what my characters say and do in those situations that are. But maybe you’re a master of the gag and it’s all about setting up for that hilarious payoff. And always run it past kids (but not your own), they’ll tell you when you’re not funny…trust me!
Do you have a favourite joke for us?
Oooooohhhhh, I have a new one that I just heard a couple of weeks ago that took over from my last favourite. Why can’t you hear a Pterodactyl go to the toilet? Because it has a silent ‘P’! I literally wet myself when I heard a kid tell that at the Sydney Writers Festival. Ok not literally, cos that’s just gross.
What’s the funniest book you’ve read?
I’ve been a massive Paul Jennings fan since I was a kid. I think ‘Uncanny’ is my favourite but I loved them all. Weirdly enough my favourite story ‘Know All’ is actually pretty spooky as opposed to funny, but Paul Jennings is a genius.
No argument there! You’d have to be ‘round the twist to think otherwise.
And, I can’t let you go without asking, should pineapple ever be on a pizza?
Not ever…ALWAYS! It’s not a pizza if it doesn’t have pineapple on it. My pizza will always have every vegetable available on it, even if that vegetable is a fruit.
What’s next for Nat Amoore?
Exciting times. Thanks so much for taking time out to talk with us. Your advice has been invaluable.
To find out more about Nat Amoore and her amazing work check these links out.