(but were afraid to ask)
Why did you decide to write this book?
My son was on holiday at a school camp. On on the first day, there were three accidents: a girl was caught in the doors of the bus, the same bus nearly ran over a girl’s arm and my son broke his wrist on the confidence course. ‘Mum,’ he said, when we were at the hospital, ‘it was like the camp was haunted!’
This got me wondering: what would a haunted school camp be like? I ended up writing a short story about this, and in this story was an old school house. The idea of a haunted schoolhouse stuck with me, so although I never used the first short story, I recycled it into Prankster.
Are any of the characters in Prankster based on real people?
Not really, although the inspector was strongly influenced by an old teacher of mine. In the olden days, when I was young, teachers were often scarey (unlike the lovely people they are today :)). So I suppose Prankster was a way of getting even with someone I used to find totally terrifying!
Why did you write that Jamie came from Scotland? Why couldn’t he come from another country?
There were three reasons why I chose Scotland. The first is because I live in Dunedin, which has a strong Scottish heritage. The second is because of a true story: my son was starting at a new school, and I went along with him for his first day. A boy in the class was really friendly, but unfortunately, neither of us could understand him, because his Scottish accent was so strong! The other kids had to translate for him! Which made me think about how isolating it can be to have no-one understand you. Parents move kids around the world – mostly without asking them first and this can be really hard on the kid, because they have to go to a new school, and perhaps no-one will understand you. I wanted to use these ideas in a story. The third and final reason for using Scotland was because of a (true) ghost story that a friend told me about Edinburgh Castle. You can read about it here.
Do you speak with a Scottish accent?
No! But my boss does (he’s from near Glasgow), so everything Jamie said I mentally imagined my boss saying first! I listened to Scottish podcasts and BBC radio too but they weren’t much use, because when the Scots really get going I find them almost impossible to understand!
Which part of writing Prankster did you find the hardest?
Chapter Twelve was definitely the hardest part to write. This is the scene in Jamie’s classroom. In this chapter the Ghosts start to write on the whiteboard, Milly vanishes into the iPad and Tayla realises that he can travel through the internet. The reason I found this scene so hard was because it has about eight characters in it, and they’re all talking at once! I ended up breaking the scene into little pieces, and each piece only having two or three people talking at one time. So there would be Becky talking to Tayla, then Tayla arguing with Milly and then Jamie talking to Tayla. This kept it a bit simpler! Roald Dahl worked a bit like that in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I think, and now I know why. If you want to see what it’s like to read a scene with lots of people in it, try and write one, and you’ll see exactly what I mean!
How did you come up with all the practical jokes?
The internet! – google and youtube…