Renowned Kiwi author Lynley Dodd talks to Treasures about the release of her soon-to-be classic Scarface Claw, Hold Tight! and offers some insight into her creative literary process
We talk to the beloved Kiwi author about her exciting new book
What is it about Hairy Maclary and characters like Scarface Claw that has captured the hearts of so many Kiwi kids over the years?
Fan letters would suggest that it’s the combination of rhyme and humour – plus the characters’ misbehaviour! The fact that the Hairy Maclary and Co books are part of an ongoing series helps too.
As a child, were you always a lover of language and art? What, or who, have been your biggest creative influences?
An emphatic yes to both language and art! I didn’t have any specific influences. It was probably just a lifetime of reading, the love of language and a fascination with illustration generally, especially as a child.
Can you explain your creative process? How does a story like Scarface Claw, Hold Tight! unfold?
The most important thing is the initial idea, which in a picture book needs to be strong and has to resolve successfully within (usually) 32 pages, so it needs to fit comfortably and say what it wants to say simply and clearly. As both writer and illustrator, I develop text and illustration together and when the text is complete, I produce a complete set of small ‘dummy’ pictures to go with the manuscript. Together they form a clear working draft for the final book and are submitted to the publisher for approval at this stage. Then the final illustrations have to be completed.
How long does it take typically to complete the illustrations for a book such as this one?
Around four to six months, counting the planning and execution of the dummy picture stage. I’m not a fast worker!
What advice would you give to someone starting out as a children’s book author/illustrator?
“Don’t get wedded to a good line,” was advice given to me by none other than Dr Seuss. It’s a version of the well-known “Be prepared to murder your darlings” – in other words, be brave enough to change something if you know it is causing a problem in some way. I keep meaning to write it in large letters and hang it over my desk.
What is your favourite Hairy Maclary book?
Although there were 10 years and five other books before Hairy Maclary trotted out of Donaldson’s Dairy in 1983, he certainly changed my life at that point. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy was the first in what is now a 21-book series, not something I could have imagined when, in around 1980, I tucked a rough sketch of a scruffy little dog into my ‘Ideas’ book!
Do you have a favourite character, and why?
Hairy Maclary likes to hog the limelight, but I’m rather fond of Slinky Malinki, who was based on the first Dodd family cat, Wooskit. The latter was black and elegant and, like Slinky, had “a kink at the end of his very long tail.” He wisely chose to ignore my husband’s description of him as a “Standard SPCA Dustbin Cat.”