Nick Sheridan on The Case of the Runaway Brain and mystery books for kids

The Case of the Runaway Brain by Nick Sheridan. Book cover and author photo.
We've got a real treat for any budding super sleuths out there this month. The book we've shared with our Parakeet subscribers is a fun, illustrated mystery perfect for younger, newly independent readers. Sausage dogs, fake news and lots and lots of mud - this book has it all! Plus it's brilliantly illustrated by David O'Connell and has an important message about true friendship. We quizzed author Nick Sheridan on what he thinks makes a good investigator and his favourite mystery books for kids.

What inspired you to write The Case of the Runaway Brain?

The Case of the Runaway Brain was inspired by lots of different things. I’m a huge fan of mystery books and I have been since I was a kid. I especially liked books that were a little bit creepy – Goosebumps were a particular favourite, because they often had a weird mystery that needed to be solved and also plenty of creepy parts that kept me up at night.

I also love older TV shows like Scooby Doo. I definitely nearly wet my pants a few times watching that when I was younger!

I think my favourite parts of The Case of the Runaway Brain are the scenes where our heroes are just hanging out and going on crackpot missions and investigations. It reminds me a lot of what I would get up to with my friends when I was younger, with a heavy dose of journalism thrown in, because that’s another thing I feel really passionate about: asking questions and being generally nosy!

Are any of the characters in the book based on real people (or events)?

Thankfully I’ve never met a real-life Madame Strang, or a real-life Mr Grule! But, yes, I think several characters are based on people that I’ve met during my life. People sometimes ask me if any of the characters are based on me, and I have to admit that I think Olly and I share a lot of the same traits: he was a bit unusual growing up, he has a love for journalism, he’s nosy – and he values his friends above everything else. It might surprise you that one character is ABSOLUTELY based on a real person: Mangler! When I began to write the book, two of my pals had just adopted a gorgeous wee sausage dog (hiya Joy), and I thought it would be a really fun idea to turn a cute little animal like a sausage dog into a savage villain! But I promise that Joy is nothing like Mangler in real life. She is extremely cute.

What characteristics do you think make a good investigator?

I think every good investigator has to have a curious mind – they need to be constantly looking at the world around them and wondering why things are the way they are. Journalists do the exact same thing – they look at interesting things that are happening right outside their window, or in their school, or in their local community, and they decide to find out more about them. Those don’t have to be bad things, or problems that they see around them, they could be good things that are happening too: interesting people coming to visit a school, a local football team winning a game or a student winning a prize for some writing they’ve done. That’s the most important thing for an investigator or a journalist: a REALLY curious (nosy) mind!

What do you think would have happened if Madame Strang had achieved her plan?

I shudder to think what might have happened! For sure it would have made life in Snoops Bay VERY VERY boring, because everyone would be thinking the same thoughts and doing the same things over and over again every day. I’ve always thought that the best thing about human beings is that we’re all different. We come in all shapes and sizes, we might speak different languages, we might be interested in different hobbies, or be good at different subjects in school, and that’s what makes the world so interesting to live in! It would be very boring to live in a world where everyone was the same. We should be proud of being unique!

Can you tell us anything about what happens next to Riz, Olly and Drew?

I don’t want to give away toooooo much, but I suppose I can give you a few hints . . . the next adventure for Riz, Olly and Drew is The Case of the Phantom Treasure which hits shelves on March 30th. It all begins with the pals discovering something very strange on a beach in Snoops Bay, they uncover something that maybe should have been left buried, and that leads to all sorts of nautical shenanigans with zombie pirates, a sad blob-fish and a swarm of savage sea creatures. It’s bonkers!

Why did you choose to create books for this age group?

I love writing for kids because my sense of humour hasn’t changed since I was maybe nine? I’m a huge kid, really – even though I pretend to be an adult. All the things that made me laugh when I was young still make me laugh today. And who wants to write a really serious book with no jokes in it?! Not me!

Do you have a favourite place to write?

Yes! I have a favourite seat in a favourite corner or my favourite bookshop in the world – Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. I love being surrounded by books when I write – just the smell of them gets me inspired. It’s not too noisy, but it’s not too quiet either, so if I get bored writing I can take a break and eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. It also has a wee coffee shop, which means I can keep myself full of pastries and hot drinks – a must for any writer!

Which other mystery books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Ooft, there are so many great mystery books out there for younger readers – it’s hard to know where to start. If I had to pick one series, I think I would choose the Diamond Brothers books by Anthony Horowitz. They’re so funny, the mysteries really pull you in and then SURPRISE you at the last minute, and there’s lots of great action in them too. I also probably loved them because one of the main characters is called NICK! If you like The Case of the Runaway Brain, I think you’ll really like the Diamond Brothers.

Copies of our The Case of the Runaway Brain pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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