Picklewitch and Jack by Claire Barker – Author Q&A and Giveaway
Posted on March 25, 2021, tagged as Author Interview, Claire Barker, Giveaway, Picklewitch and Jack
I’m delighted to host Claire Barker, award-winning author of the Picklewitch and Jack and Knitbone Pepper series, on my blog for an exclusive Q&A and giveaway. From the moment I discovered the first Picklewitch and Jack book a couple of years ago (thanks to another favourite author, Alex Bell) I’ve been a huge fan of this series and of Claire herself, who is one of the loveliest children’s authors in the business. I had the pleasure of meeting Claire a while back at a London afternoon tea held by author Emma Carroll, and I took to her warm, funny personality instantly. She is, as all the best people are, quite mad: Barker by name, barking by nature, and this comes across in her glorious books.
Picklewitch is a grubby, tree-dwelling, cake-loving little witch who lives in the garden of clever clogs Jack. As you can imagine, a cheeky, dirty witch and the school swot are a pair made in heaven, and much hilarity, magic and naughtiness ensue. I particularly love the language in these books. Claire has a talent for making up funny words as well as weaving in older, less well known words (such as my beloved ‘widdershins’) and she really knows how to turn a phrase. Each book is a separate adventure and they are all equally fantastic, I’ve loved every one of them and I’m crossing everything that there will be more from this duo. These books are aimed a little younger than my Pinch/13 series, so are great if you want a lighter read.
Claire kindly took the time to answer some questions I sent her. I hope you enjoy reading her brilliant and bonkers answers as much as I did. I’m also giving away a full set of all three Picklewitch and Jack books to one lucky reader. To enter the draw, just leave a comment below. UK only, closes midnight (UK time) Saturday 10th April 2021.
*COMPETITION CLOSED – WINNER: LAUREN DONOVAN*
What was your journey to being a published author like?
Quick, bumpy, nightmarish, full of despair, hope, wonder and joy. In that order. I became an author by accident really. A very lucky twist of fate.
Where did the name ‘Picklewitch’ come from, and did her name ever change?
She has only ever been Picklewitch, right from the moment she popped into my head on a train. She’s known as Klarinde in Germany, which I find curious, like she has a twin sister.
Where and when do you write?
My best writing time is between 2 and 5 I think. I’ve had lunch by then and I’m not constantly distracted by the thought of biscuits.
My office is a shepherd’s hut, dating back to a time when I used to live on a little farm. My children were young then and all was animals, chaos, mud and laughter. Things are more peaceful these days, but it’s still a bolthole. I just had it craned into my new garden over a 15 foot hedge. It’s fair to say I’m quite attached to it. It smells of woodsmoke, roses, lavender and magic.
The spells in Picklewitch and Jack are fun and inventive. Have you ever tried casting a spell yourself, and do you have any spell books or witchy items of your own?
I think I was scared of witches as a child and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to make Picklewitch so accessible. I read an awful lot of books on witchcraft and met many witches – all of them delightful. However, I fear that if I cast a spell it would go terribly wrong. Then I’d frantically try and fix it, inevitably making it even worse. I’d be to witchcraft what Basil Fawlty is to the hotel industry.
Do you plan your stories or go with the flow?
I don’t so much as plan, as ask my 7 year old self what she would like to hear about. Then, as god of my own universe, I make these things happen on the page. Having said this it’s not a completely free form approach. I always begin with a character, then a sharp synopsis. The trick is not to dilute it.
Do you have another job, besides writing?
I used to work as a tutor, or in schools as a TA but now I spend a lot of time visiting schools instead. No time for a proper job!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never feel intimidated. Everyone is bluffing.
The series is full of wonderful playful language and phrases such as ‘fudgenuts’ and ‘fopdoodle’. Do you have any favourites?
Quite fond of fudgenuts, savidge and hornswangle. Shakespeare made up hundreds of words, so I don’t see why we all shouldn’t follow his example. A lot of the words in the book are very old and used to be in everyday use but some are just fancies. I have a theory that some words, when placed next to other particular words, take on a sort of irresistible magic and become extra powerful. Language is our birthright – birds migrate, wolves howl and humans tell each other stories. It’s beautiful, colourful, musical and should make us want to pick up our skirts and dance.
If you could be a real witch for a day, what would you do?
I would cross the veil into the past, right on the spot where I am standing. Then I would buy a load of shares in Apple and Facebook.
What’s your top tip for aspiring writers?
Your voice is unique. Never try to be anyone else.
Character is plot.
You will need to become a merciless assassin, killing off anything that doesn’t work. Writing is not for the faint of heart.
Quick fire questions:
Badgers or Squirrels? Badgers of course!
Beach or woodland? Tricky, but I’d say woodland.
Favourite fictional witch other than Picklewitch? I love this question. Terry Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg. I’m sure there’s a big dollop of her DNA in Picklewitch.
If you could own a magical object what would it be and what would it do? A rocking horse that would transform at midnight and carry me across time.
Would you rather have birds living in your hair or bats living in your wardrobe? Birds (checks hair). Yes, birds. I once had chickens in my airing cupboard – does this count?
Would you rather fly a broomstick for one night or be chauffeured everywhere for the rest of your life? Broomstick for one night. I imagine the parking is far more practical.