An interview with the Brothers McLeod about Knight Sir Louis and funny books for kids
This month our Parakeet subscribers are reading Knight Sir Louis and the Damsel in Distress, a laugh-out-loud tale written and illustrated by brothers Greg and Myles, aka The Brothers McLeod. Here Myles ('the writey half') tells us all about working with his big brother and which other funny books for kids he would recommend you read next.
What inspired you to write Knight Sir Louis and the Damsel in Distress?
So, the book is written by me, Myles, and illustrated by my older brother, Greg. The first version of the book was written by me for my nephew, Greg's son, whose name is... Louis. It was written in about 2011 when Louis was about 7 or 8. It was very liberating to write a story with an audience of one. I simply thought about Louis and the kinds of things he found funny. The first version was written quite fast, as it was so much fun.
Which came first, the illustrations or the story?
Illustrations. The original version of the story was created by Greg as a series of comic style panels for Louis. It featured a number of the characters that still exist... like King Burt, Clunkalot and, of course, Knight Sir Louis. There were also a few others who have evolved or didn't make it into the final story (yet!)
I (Myles) was inspired by the comic to write something longer for Louis. Once it was done Greg did a few illustrations. Greg read the book to Louis (who made a few suggestions and edits himself). Then the book stayed in an (electronic) cupboard for a few years. When we decided to revisit it and rewrite the book we sought advice from our agent, Gaia. Once the words were in the right shape, Bella from Guppy Books decided to take the book on. That's when Greg really went to town on adding many, many more illustrations. So the process came full circle.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
I'm very fond of Catalogue because she's a comedy character with a lot of heart. She has simple needs, is emotionally honest, and is open to learning new skills. She's great fun to write. And Louis himself is also a favourite, of course. I love his ability to think clearly and see through any kind of nonsense... and there's a lot of nonsense in his world. He was inspired by the real Louis, who even as a child had a healthy, critical view on things. He'd ask some piercing questions!
Which chapter in the book would you most like to visit?
Chapter 23. Flying high over the strange, green land of Verdig inside Clunkalot, the flying robot horse. Maybe that's just because I'd like to go on holiday! And definitely not Chapter 28. That's not a chapter anybody wants to go to.
Do you always write together and do you have a favourite place to write?
We are quite flexible when it comes to creative projects. We've worked on many projects together, like Knight Sir Louis and our upcoming preschool TV series Circle Square. Sometimes we'll collaborate with other artists. Greg has produced animation for people like Adam Buxton, Stewart Lee, Sara Pascoe and Edgar Wright. He also did a year-long Instagram project with our comic artist friend Lizz Lunney. I've worked with my wife, writer and director Evgenia Golubeva on children's TV series. I also spent a year collaborating with comic artist Wilm Lindenblatt on a children's poetry project. It's fun to have that variety and it means you're not disappointed if the other person isn't as into an idea as you. You can simply work on it solo or with a different creative partner.
Check out Lizz's own build-your-own-theme-park book.
A boring answer but... my favourite place to write is at home. We did have a studio for a while, but it was FREEEEZING in winter. There's nothing like central heating and a well stocked kitchen to aid creativity. Before lockdown I'd often pop to the local theatre café at The Other Place if I wanted a change of scene. The murmur of chat, the sense of a busy theatre being creative, and the cosy booths at the back of the café made it a perfect place for a change of scene.
Why did you choose to create books for children?
I had a very comfortable childhood. Perhaps that's why? (I can't imagine writing YA fiction for example. I absolutely loathed being 13 and 14. I think I'd struggle to spend time in that part of my brain and write about it.) I was quite a shy child so books were a big part of investigating the world for me. Perhaps that is why I write for children. I'm not sure. Philippa Perry might be able to work it out.
What were your favourite books when you were children?
We both enjoyed The Hobbit a lot. We had a copy that basically fell to pieces. I enjoyed the Narnia stories too. The last book my Mum read to me before I started reading independently was 1001 Arabian Nights adapted by Geraldine McCaughrean. I loved that book (and continue to think she's an amazing author). In terms of funny books, Dahl of course and we really liked Eric Morecambe's The Reluctant Vampire and The Vampire's Revenge. We also read and re-read the Asterix comics (and occasionally still do). Later I started to read a lot of Hercule Poirot stories from Agatha Christie (our Dad is a big fan of Poirot, Marple and Holmes too). And then we discovered Terry Pratchett whose humour really chimed with our own. It was a fairly 'popular' diet I suppose, but we came out of it with a big love of reading.
Which other funny books for kids would you recommend our subscribers read next?
If you haven't already discovered the Julius Zebra series by Gary Northfield, that's a great bunch of books. I enjoyed Kaye Umansky's Witch for a Week, Jo Nadin's Penny Dreadful books, Princess DisGrace by Lou Kuenzler and the poems of Kate Wakeling in Moon Juice are really playful.
Finally, what is your favourite way to eat potatoes?
Thick cut chips.
Like the sound of Knight Sir Louis and the Dreadful Damsel? Grab a copy, along with our fun-filled activity pack, here.