We caught up with Konnie Huq, author of Cookie, the Most Annoying Boy in the World for a Lockdown chat from her West London home.
Konnie has been the longest serving female Blue Peter presenter from 1997 to 2008, she is ambassador for the Prince's Trust and the British Asian Trust. Her first character Cookie is inspired by Ronnie's own London Bangladeshi background, her love of science and her unashamed nerdiness.
- a&u: What 3 words would you use to describe life in London lockdown?
KH: Quiet, introverted and self-sufficient
- a&u: Have you found that books are helping you all through? Which books would you recommend to distract and entertain for grown-ups.
KH: Yes, books are helping me through! I’ve actually been reading lots of children’s books for my You Tube channel. I’ve just read a chapter from The Legend of Podkin One Ear by Kieran Larwood and I was totally gripped! I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I’ve also been reading the Royal Society Royal Society Young People's Book Prize entries as I am on the judging panel. Children’s books are a great way for adults to learn things too! There’s some brilliant non-fiction titles covering everything from space time to the environment.
- a&u: You have said that you live in a tech house and you are very much an analogue person, I guess that is having to change. Are you managing to adapt?
KH: Despite being an analogue person, I still have lots of fun gaming with the kids. We’ve been playing Overcooked 2 as a family with much hilarity!
- a&u:Cookie is a hilarious romp-filled story and huge fun, it is brilliant how you manage to stealthily sneak a bit of learning in there. Do you find that children today are more eager to learn than perhaps a generation ago?
KH: I think that children have always been curious – they want to learn all the time. The key is how it’s conveyed to them – if you share information with them in a fun way they don’t see it as learning, they just enjoy it and that’s what I tried to do with Cookie!
- a&u: We are hugely excited to see Hay Digital programme and at the press conference yesterday Peter Florence spoke about this being an exciting opportunity to experience the festival digitally but was adamant that it would in no way replace the ‘real thing’ which is the life blood of what Hay is about. How do you think you as a speaker will be able to engage with the audiences fully in this current format?
KH: People always enjoy trying something new – like Zoom chats and quizzes with friends – so I think it’s important to think of this year’s Hay as something new and different. It’s never going to replace how brilliant being at Hay in person is but this is a new way for people to experience it. And there’s also the positive of not having to travel – this year you could go to Hay from your bed!
- a&u: Do you think that children’s imaginations are more receptive than adults but also a little less forgiving?
KH: In many situations I find that children are both more receptive and more forgiving that adults! They are not cynical or jaded – they are learning and absorbing all the time.
- a&u: Could you give any tips to an aspiring writer?
KH: Write what you relate to and draw on personal experience. Even if you’re writing about something fantastical or otherworldly writing feels more realistic if you can put in some personal experience and make it more believable.
Also, I always tell kids to put in lots of twists and turns – the more the better! You want to keep the reader guessing and reading until the problems are all resolved
- a&u: What do you personally miss most about this lockdown
KH: Face to face contact!
- a&u: If there is one character in fiction who could help us all get through this with optimism who would that be?
KH: The Very Hungry Caterpillar! That caterpillar just keeps eating and eating, going through its mundane days but eventually, in time, it emerges as a butterfly!
Cookie and the most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq published by Picadilly Press. £10.99