Interview with Andy Johnson (Jonkers)
Good afternoon Mr Johnson. Thanks very much for giving up your time for an interview.
Jimpy and Jimpy 2 - fiction books about small people and their fantasy world - have been very well received by primary school students. Could you sell them in a few sentences?
The Jimpy books are full of action, fun and adventure. Primary school students identify with the engaging characters like the mischievous Mipper, boring Boffina, upstanding Blibblington Blubbly, and the extraordinary Squeezle Bottieburrp, flamboyant leader of the Upstarian Council. The children also identify with the ongoing battle between Jimpy and his friends, and the vile, evil Blacktooth. There is also the relationships between the Heatie friends and the love interest between Jimpy and Tessle.
In your stories, ‘Heaties’ are small people who need to live in warm places (like behind a radiator). However, the protagonist of the stories - Jimpy - is a rare ‘White Heatie’ and needs to live in a cold place (like a fridge). Where do your ideas come from?
The ideas come from an understanding that we are all unique and shouldn’t be treated badly just because we are different in some way. Having Jimpy living in the fridge also creates another tricky situation because it makes it difficult for him and his sweetheart, Tessle to become girlfriend and boyfriend.
I particularly enjoyed the passages where you vividly described how disgusting the fridge where Jimpy needs to live is and how equally disgusting the fridge’s owner looks. Do you feel those sorts of passages help to engage younger readers?
The references to ‘the disgusting, slimy, sticky gunge up inside the human’s nostrils’ and later references to farts help to engage younger readers.
What other qualities do you think children look for in a book?
I think children look for fun, adventure and action. Slightly ‘naughty’ bits like farts and bogies often helps. Humour works well.
Did you start off the Jimpy books with the plot already mapped out or did they evolve as you wrote them?
I had a reasonable idea of what the plot was going to be from the onset, but the stories certainly evolved as I wrote them. This always happens, but it’s vital to have a basic plan set down.
Do you feel that your experiences as a teacher helped you to tailor your books towards primary school children? I know that your events in local primary schools have been very well received.
I feel that my experiences of working with children in a range of roles, including as a supply teacher, has definitely helped me to tailor my writing to a certain age group. I have also been able to test out parts of my stories and poems to classes in a lot of different schools.
What inspires you to write?
My main motivation is that I enjoy seeing children reading, enjoying and laughing at my stories and poems. I also simply enjoy being creative and using my imagination and sense of humour. With the Jimpy books there is also a chance to get over some basic messages about anti-bullying and anti-racism within a fun story.
Outside of writing, what are your other passions?
Other passions include my family, running, reading and supporting the Mighty Colchester United (I told you I had a sense of humour!).
What authors do you enjoy reading?
I would say that my favourite author is P G Wodehouse. I love the language and the sense of being in an era of history that unfortunately never actually existed. I would love to live in the world that Wodehouse creates.
My favourite children’s author is Roald Dahl, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a child I also read a lot of Enid Blyton books and consider The Magic Far Away Tree to be probably my favourite children’s book.
I understand that you’ll soon be releasing a book of poetry - “I’m So Ugly and Other Poems”. What can you tell us about that?
This is a collection of my best children’s poems ranging from subjects such as Football, Farts, Annoying Turkeys and Small Boys. There is also a mixture of styles of poems and poetic forms. Once more, Hen The Pen has created the front cover and illustrated some of the poems.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr Johnson.
Andy Johnson writes under the pseudonym ‘Jonkers’. His website and blog can be found at https://www.writtenbyjonkers.co.uk/ and he can be found on Facebook here. His books - Jimpy, Jimpy 2 and Terry Scope’s Telescope - can all be purchased through his website.