5-4-3-2-1: AF Harrold

By Jim Dean, November 9, 2015

One of my favourite books of last year was The Imaginary, a brilliant story of a young girl and her imaginary friend, published by Bloomsbury. AF Harrold’s superb writing and Emily Gravett’s gorgeous illustrations came together beautifully to create a truly special novel. To celebrate the recent paperback release, we got AF Harrold to take part in our 5-4-3-2-1 feature.

Songs that sum up the last novel you wrote perfectly

1. Morton Feldman – Piano and String Quartet – I wrote a lot of the last third of a novel called Trollsong while listening to this amazing piece of music. It’s long and not a lot happens, but does so perfectly.

2. Frank Zappa – Watermelon in Easter Hay – Frank said that the title is short for ‘playing a guitar solo in this band is like trying to grow a watermelon in easter hay’, i.e. difficult. Writing Trollsong was similar.

3. John Cage – Living Room Music – John Cage is fascinating, full of random processes that end up making something you weren’t exactly expecting. I think there’s plenty in Trollsong I wasn’t expecting.

4. Suzanne Vega – Small Blue Thing – Frank, the main protagonist, is a small blue thing too. For various reasons she’s not very happy.

5. Bonzo Dog Band – Sport (The Odd Boy) – I never really asked her if she was good at sports (there are no PE lessons in the book), but I suspect she’s not. The book’s about the odd ones the other kids don’t really understand or like, not just Frank, but her friend Nick too.

Books you’d save from a burning bookcase

1. Bill Watterson – Complete Calvin & Hobbes – this is a massively heavy, beautiful slip-cased thing that will ensure that not only am I burnt to a crisp before I get away from the bookcase, but I’ll also do my back in. However, it’s totally worth it.

2. The Poems of Norman MacCaig – just a great poet I’d love to have with me while waiting for someone to build me a new bookcase.

3. Raymond Briggs – Gentleman Jim – one of the most important books of my childhood, and I’ve two important editions: my original, tatty, well-thumbed one; and a newer little hardback ‘graphic novel’ edition signed to me by Briggs himself. I’ll save both.

4. Brian Patten – Love Poems – when I put the MacCaig down, I’ll pick Patten up. Poetry is important.

Places you love to read

1. Bath – the one in the bathroom, not the one in Wiltshire.

2. Bed – the one in the bedroom, not the one in Bedfordshire.

3. Train – anywhere.

Relationships you love reading about

1. People – things that human beings do and say to each other can be interesting…

2. Spaceships – but then so can spaceships.

Pieces of advice you’d give yourself if you could travel back in time to before you became a published author

1. “Don’t change a thing, you’re doing fine.”

What do you think?