Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Richard Heddington, which is generally uncontested. As for my age, according to my birth certificate, I am 53. However, very few people who know me would testify to my reaching adulthood, and officially I am still a kid. I have always said, ‘If I live until I’m 100, I will die with the heart of a child’.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Bristol, and I now live in Plymouth (the one in Devon, not Massachusetts).
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Life was all fairly average throughout my formative years. There was never any real luxury, but it was comfortable enough, and there was never any real tragedy. Family life was average, my education was average, and except for being hung upside down by my ankles in the sixth-form common room, very little of any note happened. (I should maybe point out that the common room incident was a one-off schoolboy prank, and not some form of ritualistic disciplinary practice by the staff.)
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Where to begin? What with Brexit, the royal engagement, and the royal baby, it’s nigh-on impossible to get any column inches. However, in my own modest way I am building awareness of Henry the Hedgegnome, and children around the world are discovering what an amazing children’s book character he is. It’s still early days, but popularity is growing, and I keep reminding myself that there was once a time when the world didn’t know Mickey Mouse. It is entirely feasible for a little character to become a superstar.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always enjoyed playing with words, and my first foray into imaginative writing was in primary school. We had been set some work to do, but instead of carrying out the task, I went off on a tangent and wrote a poem called ‘The Cattydoghamsterfish in a dish’. Although it was totally unrelated to what we were supposed to do, the teacher loved it, and that gave me a real confidence boost. It was my first sense of having something unique to offer.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My brother is a musician, and during the late-eighties/early-nineties he was writing songs for an album, but he was struggling with lyrics. He asked if I would write some lyrics for him, so the songwriting partnership of Heddington and Heddington was born. We might not have been quite as prolific as Lennon and McCartney, but our working relationship was definitely more harmonious than the Gallaghers, and we wrote some good stuff. Maybe a reunion is in order; it worked wonders for The Police. The songs were well received by people who bought the albums, and I am very proud of what we created. I would love to see them re-recorded and released for a new audience.
Being praised bystrangers for my creativity was a real buzz, and that was when I first considered myself a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
That depends on how you interpret ‘your first book’. My first book is not the work for which I am now known, and is still a work in progress. It is a humorous Sci-fi novel called ‘Rrealworld’ that takes placepartly in the real world, and partly inside a computer game. The game has been written by a teenager, but unfortunately, the boy’s programming is not quite perfect. The errors cause his social media to interfere with the game and leads to disastrous consequences for the characters living inside the game. It’s a somewhat tongue in cheek look at modern life, and I can’t wait to get it finished. It’s hilarious, as my early beta readers will testify.
The first book I got published was quite a different story. It goes back to when I was in secondary school, and I drew a cartoon in an art class titled ‘Humans have gnomes – Hedgehogs have hedgegnomes’. It was all about a tiny hedgehog-like character called Henry the Hedgegnome, and his friends. The characters became quite a hit with my fellow students. There were button badges, pages of illustrations, and several appearances in the school magazine. When I left school to get a job, Henry the Hedgegnome was retired to the attic and underwent a hibernation of nearly forty years (a good nap by anyone’s standards). Over the years, people asked whether I had ever done anything with the Hedgegnomes, but I never really knew how I should go about it. Then, while reading Mr Men books to our first granddaughter as a bedtime story, it occurred to me that the short, simple, illustrated story was an ideal format for Henry the Hedgegnome. I taught myself the dark-art of self-publishing, and that combined with a lifetime’s experience with Adobe software meant I soon had the first Henry the Hedgegnome book on sale. Based on the strength of reaction from children and parents alike, I quickly realised just how strong the character was, and set about producing further stories.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was quite a long and complicated process. The first book is about a character called Henry the Hedgegnome, and in the story he has a busy day. After much brainstorming, I eventually honed it down to ‘Henry the Hedgegnome has a busy day’. It might sound difficult, but it’s all in a day’s work for a creative genius.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
When writing for children, it’s always important to consider the vocabulary and comprehension level. Referring to quantum theory or the socio-economic issues of the third world might somewhat restrict the readership, but saying that ‘Henry slid across the ice on his bum’ is something that everyone can understand and laugh at.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
With regards to Henry the Hedgegnome, my experience is almost the exact opposite. Henry the Hedgegnome has grown within the stories, and has now become real. I feel as if I know him, and I can see why children latch on to him so strongly, because in my mind he is definitely a living breathing ‘person’.
In the case of my novel, however, it is more along the lines of what you expect to hear, because much of the background for Rrealworld is taken from real life. The characters are mostly caricatures of people I have encountered. Some of themI know personally, but a lot are created from observations I have made when traveling. Before I started writing Rrealworld, I was writing a book of observational humour about the people and situations I encountered in everyday life. When the storyline for Rrealworld appeared in my head (it was an instantaneous and unexpected event), I decided to use my notes to create the characters for the novel. After-all, the characters that appeared in my notebooks were so weird and wonderful they lent themselves to appearing in fiction. Most of them are so ubiquitous, that readers will recognise the characters as people they know in their own lives. I like to think that if there is one you don’t recognise, maybe that one is you.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Only to the office.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The short answer is, me. The longer answer is, I design the covers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
From the Henry the Hedgegnome books, I would like readers to think ‘That was fun, we need to get the rest of the set, and the t-shirt, and the mug…’
As for my novel, I want readers to recognise and laugh at the people and situations that are part of their own lives. I want them to see what an idiotic world we live in. The deeper message is verging on spiritual. We live in a world of virtual reality and the quest for a sentient computer. From the point of view of a thinking computer, the human who created it is their God. But, what happens if that God made mistakes in the programming, and those mistakes are potentially fatal to the inhabitants?
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Most of the writers I read are far from new. The children’s writers I love include David Walliams, Roald Dahl, and Anthony Horowitz, all largely for their seemingly simple and imaginative storytelling. Other authors I enjoy are Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, and Jasper Fforde. The appeal of these is in the ridiculous representation of life.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
School friends from more than forty years ago have been amazingly supportive in the publication of Henry the Hedgegnome. Over the years, many have asked whether I ever did anything with the character, and now that I have, they are incredibly enthusiastic in their support for him. Having loved Henry the Hedgegnome when they themselves were children, they are now introducing him to their grandchildren. The support I have had is amazing. It fills me with confidence of the timeless nature of Henry the Hedgegnome to know that he is as loved today as he was forty years ago. Henry the Hedgegnome is here to stay.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Most definitely. It is said that only a tiny percentage of authors (and an even smaller percentage of children’s authors) can make a living through writing. It may be slim odds, but I work on the principle that it might as well be me. Besides, I have Henry the Hedgegnome to help me, so I am in a strong position from the start.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think I can. It is an early learning book about counting to ten, so short of discovering a new number there is little that I can do.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Absolutely nothing. I have been using the decimal counting system for some years now, and I am fairly fluent with it. Allow me to demonstrate. 1, 2, 3…
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
For Rrealworld, I have always had the comedian, Lee Evans, in mind for the character of ‘Toomie Autumwins’. Lee and I were born within a few days and miles of each other in Bristol in 1964, and I have always felt that our sense of humour was very similar. The character of Toomie is the one whose traits most closely resemble my own, but as I wrote the story, I found myself visualising Lee playing the part. Toomie even has Lee’s ears.
As for the voice of Henry the Hedgegnome, I am always listening to people’s voices with a view to whom it should be. Casting the right voice can make a cartoon, and it has to be distinctive. Arthur Lowe and Oliver Postgate are prime examples. It has crossed my mind that Lee Evans could be Henry the Hedgegnome.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Be true to yourself. There is so much emphasis on being the next [add name here], but that is just working backwards. Terry Pratchett didn’t achieve success by being the next Douglas Adams, he was too busy being the first Terry Pratchett. I have no intention of being the next thing from the past. I am the first Richard Heddington.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Spread the word, and tell everyone about my books.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Paddington at large by Michael Bond.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. I think my love of books goes back further than my memories of them. I still have many of my childhood books. The walls of my office are full of books, some going back to the late 1960’s when I would have been very young. My bookshelves are like a timeline of my reading from day-one to the present day. Who knows, the first book I ever read may still be on the shelf.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Most things make me laugh, because I tend to see humour or stupidity in everything. My personal blog is largely based on what makes me laugh.
What makes me cry? The film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Robin Williams. He was hilarious.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I have always enjoyed natural history. There was a time when every spare minute was spent birding, or chasing moths around a light. Unfortunately, it is a long time since I actively took part in it. These days, it’s a case of reading Twitter for the news of what’s about.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I invariably opt for comedy. I’m sure that will come as no surprise to anyone.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: I love trying anything new.When we eat out, I will always choose the weirdest thing on the menu.
Colours: It depends on what it is. Pink cakes are fine, but on a car, I would prefer a slate grey. Blue sky, green forests, and any coloured socks as long as they are stripy.
Music: My favourites have always been The Police, Pink Floyd, and Rush. This year, I have discovered The Beatles, and Oasis.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Watch telly and wait for the nurse to bring my tea.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
‘Keep the noise down please, I came here for a rest’.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Henry the Hedgegnome
My personal blog and photography website:
Henry the Hedgegnome website:
Richard Heddington personal blog and photography:
Amazon author page:
‘Henry the Hedgegnome has a busy day’ at Amazon: