Jeremy Strong

What books did you read when you were a child?
I read lots of animal stories - African folk tales about animals, Gerald Durrell, Tarka the Otter, Just So Stories. I loved adventure and that meant the Famous Five and Biggles. I also had a Book of Nonsense Verse that I often dipped into. All of them have fed into my own writing in various ways.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I think it would have to be The Genius Aged 8¼ from my new book! (Even though I’m actually 67.) I’ve always rather admired Winnie the Pooh, too.

What is the best thing about reading?
Getting completely lost in your book so that you can’t bear to stop reading it, because you have been completely captured by the book’s story and its wonder, and the way in which it’s written.

What is your all-time favourite book?
Oh come on! Are you joking? I know so many great and wonderful books. Just choose one? Impossible. OK, one. The Peregrine, by John Baker. It turned me into a bit of a bird watcher and drew me to the delight of birds. Have you ever seen anything so delicate and wonderful as a robin’s legs? Take a look next time you see one!

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Constant conversation, showing, questioning, explaining and discussing. It encourages children to speak, to use words, to think, to listen, to argue, to persuade, to express their emotions and so on. All of these are vital skills that will be of positive help to them all their lives.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
They played a rather non-active part, I’m afraid! I showed my mother one or two pieces when I was about 18, but that was about it.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Mostly by keeping them supplied with books - and not just my own! I sit and read with them when I can. I love bedtime reading. I think a bedtime story is the best! I also try to read to my wife, Gillie, at bedtime but she falls asleep after about two minutes… I hope it’s because I have a comforting voice!

Jeremy Strong once worked in a bakery, putting the jam into three thousand doughnuts every night. Now he puts the jam into stories instead, which he finds much more exciting. He loves writing stories because it's 'the only time you alone have complete control and can make anything happen'. His ambition is to make you laugh (or at least snuffle). Jeremy Strong lives near Bath with his wife, Gillie, four cats and a flying cow. His new book, The Genius Aged 8 ¼, is out now.

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