Hello everybody! Today, I’m very excited to welcome Richard Pickard to the blog to celebrate the release of his debut novel, the Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy. Onto the post!
Hi Richard, thank you so much for being here today and having me as part of your blog tour!
Thank you, it’s so lovely to be here!
1. To start off, can you please describe the book in 5 words?
Quirky, dark, funny, surreal, and fishy!
2. Your main character Marina loves to tell stories, even though some of the people in her town cruelly consider her a liar. When did you realise you loved telling stories/writing? Can you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I’ve always loved stories, but I didn’t do much writing as a child. I was an arty kid and more into drawing and painting, then I really started to love English at secondary school. There wasn’t a lot of creative writing, but in one lesson our teacher asked us to write a short story inspired by a painting of our choice. I picked ‘The Therapist’ by Rene Magritte, which shows a strange man with the body of a bird cage … I’ve always remembered that my teacher was really impressed by that story, and I kept his words in mind when I was writing my novel. As a teenager, I also spent a lot of time writing scripts for my own episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
3. Perhaps on a similar note, which books did you absolutely love growing up? Are there any writers or books you find particularly inspiring?
My brother and I were big fans of Roald Dahl and between us we had all of his books. I adored the dark humour of his work, whether it was George feeding his awful grandmother antifreeze; an entire family of hunters being turned into ducks with the point of a finger; or The Twits’ horrible pranks. Other firm favourites included Five Children and It by E. Nesbit, Harry and the Wrinklies by Alan Temperley, and Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair series.
Movies have also had a huge influence on me. I’m pretty sure that everything I know about story-structure was subconsciously absorbed by watching Disney. The work of Tim Burton has also been a big inspiration, so I’m really loving those comparisons.
4. Something I loved about your book was the seaside setting, which I always love reading about. What are some of your favourite books set by the seaside? Are there any real-life places that particularly inspired Merlington?
Merlington is a real mix of so many different places, including West Bay, Lyme Regis and Whitstable, which is famous for its oysters and shellfish. Brighton’s dilapidated West Pier, one of my favourite UK landmarks, was also the starting point for William’s crumbling shack.
As for books with a seaside setting, The Witches is obviously up there, and I’d like to write something set in a big hotel one day too. I also love Thomas Taylor’s Eerie-on-Sea novels, and The Beach by Alex Garland is one of my adult favourites.
5. I’m not sure if it’s just the sea creature connection, but one of the most exciting things about your book for me was that it reminded me of the new Pixar film Luca, which I’ve already seen about 4 times. If you were to get to write a book adaptation of any film, what would it be and why?
I loved Luca! It instantly became a top-five Pixar film for me. Many of my favourite films have already been adapted from novels, so that’s a very hard question … If I were to write a complete novel based on a movie, it would probably be a horror movie like The Blair Witch Project or Candyman, which was based on a short. I’ve always loved urban legends, and even did a presentation on them once at school. They’re such an exciting form of storytelling in the way they are handed down through the generations.
6. Given that this is your debut novel, I wanted to ask what tips you’d give to other debut writers? What has been your favourite moment on your publication journey so far?
My biggest advice would just be to get the words down. My novel was written in short fits and starts over several years, but once I finally had a full manuscript that sense of achievement was immense and I could see that it probably wasn’t that terrible. It all fell into place quite quickly once I’d reached that milestone.
Apart from seeing the incredible cover by Maxine Lee-Mackie for the first time, my favourite part of the journey has been meeting so many lovely booksellers post-publication. They have all been really enthusiastic and supportive, and I’ve seen my book on so many tables and even in storefront windows. It’s been incredible.
7. Also on the theme of writing, what is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
What routine!? I find myself writing wherever and whenever I can. At the moment that’s in the garden, but I wrote much of The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy on trains, in cafes and at our Bournemouth beach hut. I find writing the first draft by hand in a notebook so much easier than staring at a blank computer screen. It seems to take the pressure off!
8. Finally, can you give us any hints about what you’re working on at the moment and/or will be releasing next?
I’m currently drafting another strange seaside novel for Chicken House, but this one is a full-blown summertime adventure. Much less fish but a lot more sun and sea, plus another very odd family mystery …
1. Favourite Disney or Pixar film? How dare you! An impossible question, but my top three Disney films are The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Aladdin.
2. Fish and chips or sushi, given the seafood theme of Merlington? I love both, but you can’t beat fish and chips. Shout out to Chez Fred in Westbourne, the best in the world.
3. A seaside holiday or a city break? A seaside city break!
4. Top three books of 2021 so far? I’ve read so many great middle grade books this year. . . I’ll say Murder on the Safari Star by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman, Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll, and Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traoré.
5. Three upcoming releases you can’t wait for? I’m very excited to read Aarti and the Blue Gods by Jasbinder Bilan, Wishyouwas by Alexandra Page, and Sisters of the Lost Marsh by Lucy Strange.
The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy is out now, priced £6.99. You can read chapter one here.
Thank you so much for reading! Are you planning to pick this up, or have you already read it? Do you prefer fish and chips or sushi?! I’d love to hear in the comments!