Dean O’Brien was born in Dunedin. After a varied career on radio and teaching English as a second language, he decided to follow his heart, creating fun music and stories under the name, Mr Yipadee. His mission is to encourage kids to laugh and believe in themselves. Living in the UK at the time, Mr Yipadee’s debut album went to #1 on the UK Children’s Music Charts. Since then, he has headlined the Kidz Field at the famous Glastonbury Music Festival. Now living back in the Antipodes, he loves spending time touring with his family between New Zealand, Australia and England. Deano talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Knock Knock
This was a really exciting and challenging book for me. I didn't know how I was going to do it but knew I wanted to write a fun book that had knock knock jokes but also told a story. It took me about a year to figure out how I could do that. I know it sounds simple but it was actually (for me!) quite hard to figure out how to make it simple. The added challenge is to figure out how to make it work as a song so kids can read along and sing along at the same time. Sometimes people think that song books are easier to write, but I would suggest it's the opposite, to make something work as a good book and a good song is an added complexity.
What inspired you to write this book?
Haha, sadly, I'm a typical Dad with an abundance of dad jokes. My daughters love Knock Knock jokes although my youngest doesn't actually get them. As an example she would say "Knock Knock. Who's There? Pooh Pooh. Hahahahahahaha"
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I tried numerous attempts at story options that could include the jokes and after trying probably about 10 ideas I came up with a Giraffe Having a Laugh. It then evolved into a giraffe knocking on all the doors in her street.
What was the process working with Paul Beavis, the illustrator?
Paul and I are friends now. When we first started working together we hadn't met as I was a Kiwi living in the UK and he is a Brit living in NZ. Scholastic sent through his sketches and needless to say he's a very talented (and handsome!) man. I'm blown away by what that man can do. For someone that can only manage stick figures, I think Mr Beavis is an absolute genius. The process is I write the words. Send them to the publisher. Paul uses his magic wand and they come out looking incredible! I don't really have much to do with that side of it. ALL HAIL PAUL BEAVIS!
What did you enjoy the most about writing Knock Knock?
It was the most challenging book to write therefore it's one I'm most proud of, because of the reasons I just mentioned.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Bounced on the trampoline with my girls (3 & 7). We were pretty excited so we bounced about as high as Sky Tower in Auckland.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
David Walliams books (because I'm writing a junior fiction! Shhhhh) and Aaron Blabeys Thelma the Unicorn. He's such a brilliant illustrator and I love his books and so do my kids.
What's next on the agenda for you?
Just returned from releasing two books in the UK (Stink-o-saurus and Ron The Royal Guard) so I'll probably sleep for a week and then start planning a tour of NZ to coincide with Knock Knock and a brand new Stink-o-saurus title (shhhhhhh) released in October (shhhhhhh)