Interview: Peter Millett talks about My Old Man He Played Rugby
Peter Millett is one of New Zealand’s hardest working children’s authors, with more than 50 books to his name. He is a risk taker with a zany sense of humour, who chucked in his job as a travel agent 20 years ago to write children’s books fulltime. He talks to NZ Booklovers about his book, My Old Man He Played Rugby.
What inspired you to write My Old Man He Played Rugby?
I love taking traditional ideas and tropes and giving them an unexpected reboot. Sometimes something really different evolves from the exercise. When I read the rhyme ‘This Old Man He Played One’ I immediately imagined a sports person wearing a team shirt with the number ‘1’ on the back. That instantly transformed the meaning of the rhyme for me. I experimented further and ended up creating a sweaty, physical rugby match played in rural New Zealand!
Was there any research involved?
Yes. While my book is lackadaisical Kiwi fun in the sun, it’s also a story featuring rugby and we had to be 100% accurate with our portrayal of NZ’s most beloved game. We knew there would be many players and ex-players reading this book and demanding that we knew our stuff about footy.
What was the process working with the illustrator?
Most publishers have the best handle on this area. They know the perfect style the text needs. Basically an editor is like an interior designer and architect all rolled into one. I politely cheered from the sidelines and tossed in the odd suggestion here and there. Jenny Cooper is a genius. I still read the book and smile at what she’s done.
Can you tell us a little about how you created the song that accompanies the book, and what it was like to work with Jay Laga’aia.
Jay is Mr Music. He has 30+ years of experience working in the recording studio. I felt like an office junior hanging out with the Prime Minister. Listening to Jay’s first cut of our previous song The Kiwi Go Marching One By One was a career high. It felt like listening to a Michael Jackson demo track. On our latest song he’s adopted a completely new style and sound which adds a new dimension to the reading experience.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this delightful picture book?
My favourite part of publishing is the editorial and production process. It’s like working in Willy Wonka’s factory. You join a team of dream-creators for a month or so and your imagination works 24/7 on creating something that no one has ever heard or seen before. And to top it all off I now get to work with creative musicians as well. Very ace.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I’m quite an unrelaxing publishing person to be around. The moment the editing was finished I went straight into making a series of promotional videos for the book. I’m still working on them!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
‘I, Partridge by Alan Partridge’. His book includes everything I love to read in a comedy book: clever word play, bizarre metaphors, gloriously politically incorrect references and a cautionary message for anyone considering developing an ego.
What do you like the best about being a full-time children’s author? Any regrets of chucking in your day job all those years ago?
This answer is very simple. My job as an author is to brainstorm creative ideas every single day of the week. The more ideas I can think of the better. It suits my way of working down to the ground. Sometimes the pressure to be creative ‘on demand’ can be a little difficult to manage, but generally speaking it all works out in the end. I have no regrets about abandoning my corporate career and sacrificing any form of job or retirement security.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m writing a new junior fiction series at the moment. It will hopefully appeal to fans of my previous Johnny Danger and Boy Zero series. I’m having a lot of fun working on this exciting project! It comes out in 2019.