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

Little Treasures - - NEWS -

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.”

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