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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Justin Brown writing as Justin Christopher talks about Nanas with No Manners

Justin Brown is an author, writer, TV producer and MC. In addition to a number of books for adults, he has also written a number of middle-grade novels as Justin Christopher, including Stowaway Daze, Freakout Island, The Underers and My Best Worst Year. His books encourage themes of friendship, family, and bad jokes. Justin lives in Auckland with his family, including Cooper the dog. Justin talks to NZ Booklovers.

What inspired you to write this book?

Who doesn’t love their nana? They let you stay up late and have ice cream for dinner. For many, their charm is that they don’t take life so seriously, mostly because they’re not caught up in the chaos of working and parenting.

My own nanas lived in Whanganui where I went for school holidays. I remember lots of cheese on toast and one of my nana's incomparable comebacks, ‘Bite your bum,’ which, although very funny, was, as it turned out, physically impossible.

What research was involved?

watched a lot of interviews with Maurice Sendak and still hold close to something he said: ‘I don’t write for children, I write books and children like them.’

I knew that as a dad the magic potion for a picture book was to find one the parent or caregiver loves as much as the child. As a writer, that’s no easy task, nor is finding your inner child when you’re thinking about taxes or the broken button on the dishwasher. You’ve got to let go and read Pigeon Drives The Bus or The Tiger Came To Tea or anything by Lauren Child.

What was your routine or process when writing this book, and how did you work with the illustrator?

I rejoiced once I had the title and immediately googled it with a feeling of impending doom. Next came the task of writing something that I’d be proud of, and more importantly, a book that was funny and memorable. When Scholastic sent me Minky’s illustrations, I breathed a sigh of relief. They were perfect.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Oh Sherrie, Steve Perry - because I’m sure a few flagons were consumed in Whanganui

A Taste of Honey - Herb Alpert - My Grandfather Brown’s favourite band.

You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You - Dean Martin

You Make Me Feel So Young - Frank Sinatra

What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?

The response! I read an early version to juiced up adults at a poetry night in a pizza bar. They laughed. My workmate read that same version to her 6, 4, and 3 year olds and all of them loved it. What more could a writer ask for?

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Started the next one.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

The Little Prince is timeless, The Thursday Murder Club for cozy crime, and Walt Disney’s biography (by Neal Gabler) for an in-depth account of a creative genius.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have an idea for another Nanas With No Manners story, and as I write for all ages, I have just completed a film script, The Circus Heist and am about to complete a detective book for adults. Most importantly I need to master Bananagrams.

Scholastic NZ


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