There’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of The Turners. You can read more about why we love the first book and think this series will be great for all primary and early high school readers here, even those who are hesitant and might need some encouragement! We got a glimpse inside the mind of author Mick Elliott and asked him all about how and why he made up his fantastical yet totally normal world…
BRK: What do you hope kids will get from reading The Turners?
ME: A strong desire to keep reading! And hopefully the same enjoyment I get when I am immersed in a book with a non-stop plot, an ensemble of offbeat characters and a healthy dose of scatological humour.
BRK: How did the idea for the world of The Turners come to you?
I had an image in my head of a boy suddenly growing a tail in the middle of his school library. I knew that this would be the opening of the book, even though I had no grand plan for where the story would go from there – other than that there would be genetically modified hamsters somewhere along the way.
BRK: Tell us more about creating the rules and regulations of Turning.
It felt it would be boring if Turners could simply transform into animals any time. The idea of limitless shape-shifting has been explored in other books. So I decided to tightly constrict the parameters of Turning so that they can only ‘Turn’ briefly, once a night, and that it takes them a long time to learn to control what animal they ‘Turn’ into each time. This created lots of scope for comedy and conflict. And of course, there is a twist for Leo that makes his life as a Turner even more complicated.
BRK: We loved seeing the brother/sister friendship at the core. What was it like writing the (occasionally hilariously awkward) relationship between Leo and Abbie?
I love Abbie. She is abrasive, sarcastic and a treats Leo was thinly disguised disdain. Just your average older sibling, really. Every time I introduced her into a scene, the story ramped up a couple of gears. She could easily have her own series, I think.
I have two older brothers and we spent a lot of time as kids jammed in the back seat of our family car on holiday road trips. That close proximity is like a melting pot for siblings. So it’s probably no accident that Leo and Abbie spend a good part of The Turners stuck in a tiny Fiat 500.
BRK: You’re a TV producer for Nickelodeon, what inspired you to jump into books and writing as well?
Nickelodeon is an amazing brand to work for. We’re extremely passionate about producing great content for kids, no matter what the medium. We understand that kids are a smart and discerning audience and that they will not tolerate being patronised or condescended to.
I’ve written hundreds of scripts for everything from promos to TV series to live events, and I wanted to apply the same discipline and insights I’ve learned at Nickelodeon into a book series, without the constraints of budget or logistical realities of transforming what was in my head onto the screen. It has been a real joy, I have to say!
BRK: If you could Turn into any animal, what would you choose?
I’ve pondered this question a lot whilst writing The Turners. Every time I was preparing to write Leo’s next Turn, I had to consider all the pros and cons of all the possible animals he could become.
For me though, I think a squirrel could be fun. Or perhaps an owl. Everybody loves owls, don’t they?
BRK: There are so many wild and wacky scenes in The Turners. Was there one that was your particular favourite to write?
There is a scene towards the end of the book involving a pack of extremely large, extremely hungry flesh-eating pigs. It’s disgusting, gruesome and was a lot of fun to write.
BRK: What’s next for the Lennox family?
So much more! There are two more Turners books coming. The sequel (The Turners: Camp Freakout) sees Leo go to school camp, where his Turning gets him into strife very quickly.
BRK: Please tell us more about the children’s books that influenced you as a child.
I loved The Wind in The Willows. (I actually played Rat in a high school production.)
I still remember the utter pleasure of listening to our teacher read S.A Wakefield’s Bottersnikes and Gumbles books to the class in third grade. I devoured the original Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I was obsessed (and still am) with Herge’s Adventures of Tintin. They are brimming with mystery, suspense and humour.
But I’ve never really stopped reading kids’ books. As a parent I have the dual joy of rediscovering books I love and introducing them to my kids. Roald Dahl, Andy Griffiths, Jeff Kinney, J.K Rowling, Derek Landy, Garth Nix and Trenton Lee Stewart are all regulars at our house!
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