How To Be Brave – Lara interviews Daisy May Johnson

Book Nook Review Crew member Lara was so taken by How To Be Brave that she couldn’t bear to be parted from the book. Here she is posing some very impressive questions to author Daisy May Johnson.

Lara: What inspired you to write about ducks?

DMJ: I knew I wanted one of my characters to be really smart and knowledgeable about something, but I was never quite sure what that something was going to be. It had to be something that wasn’t already being done in children’s books, because I wanted How To Be Brave to be very different. I also wanted it to be funny and interesting and relatable for people to read about. For a while, I thought that Elizabeth might know a lot about mushrooms or nuclear physics, but I really wasn’t confident in making either of them work!  I thought then about ducks and realised that I felt confident enough to write about them and that I could make it funny. And that was it! I’d found the right thing. 

Lara: Did you go to boarding school when you were younger and if not did you want to?

DMJ: I didn’t! And also, I don’t think I really wanted to – I read a lot of classic boarding school stories and there was a lot of people almost drowning, falling off mountains, being lost in snow and sometimes doing all of this at the same time. It was all amazing to read about, but the thought of experiencing it in person was a little bit terrifying. Plus everybody in those books always had a cold shower first thing in the morning and that was NOT one of the things I wanted to experience.

Lara: What is your favourite biscuit and what is your favourite cake?

DMJ: Honestly, these are EXCELLENT questions! I am very fond of a pink wafer because if you need to, you can stack them up and make tiny pink wafer forts out of them. And for cake, I think it’s got to be either a cupcake with a substantial amount of icing on it – or a chocolate cake (with absolutely NO jam whatsoever…). 

Lara: How did you come up with your characters especially Calla?

DMJ: I get a lot of inspiration from film. I’m always interested in the characters who are on the sidelines as the great dramatic event happens in front of them – the people who see Captain America run past, or watch Spiderman swing by. What are they thinking? What’s going on in their lives? What’s their story? And so with Calla, I kind of wanted to think about those girls who aren’t necessarily the big and dramatic characters in the world – they’re the quiet ones who are just trying to figure out how to survive…

Lara: What tips would you give to budding authors?

DMJ: It will take time and patience to become the writer that you’re destined to be so don’t ever give up. Tell the stories that you want to tell, tell them how you want to tell them, and make sure you believe in yourself every inch of the way. 

Lara: Are you going to write a sequel? (I hope so)

DMJ: I am! Book two is called How To Be True and it’s all about Edie. And then, hopefully, there’s going to be another book after that (but we won’t spoil who that’s about just yet…). 

Lara: I liked reading about Calla’s mum at the school, how important was this to the story?

DMJ: It was so important! I think it’s vital to present adults as real people, and to talk about how they’re just trying to figure things out as much as younger people are. It’s very easy to view adults as kind of two-dimensional characters who just magically pop into the world as adults and they’re not. Elizabeth’s time at school is vital because it helps her become the woman that she is – and that’s somebody who Calla loves very much. 

Lara: What’s your favourite song?

DMJ: I LOVE A MUSICAL. Right now, I’m playing a lot of Six because it is everything! I will also stop everything to listen to Keala Settle sing ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman and Amber Riley singing ‘And I Am Telling You’ from Dreamgirls. I can also do a very convincing one woman rendition of Les Miserables – I’m not saying it’s musical but it is Quite Heartfelt. 

Huge thank yous and high fives to Lara and Daisy May Johnson for such a fab author interview. Out July 1st, you can pre-order a copy of this stunner of a book here:

Hi my name is Lara and I’m nearly 9. My favourite things in the world are books, sloths, musicals, drawing – especially designing clothes and writing though I’ve never got past the beginning. 
My parents own The Book Nook which means I’m lucky enough to get sneak previews of many new books. My bedroom is overflowing with books though my life motto is ‘there’s no such thing as too many books’. 
I am a major fan of Harry Potter and I’m a Ravenclaw. Some of my favourite authors are Sophie Anderson, Maria Kunzar (The Ship of Shadows is one of the BEST books ever), Sophy Henn, Vashti Hardy and Jenny McLachlan. 

About the book

Calla’s mum has never been normal. She’s been known to go out in a lab coat and slippers and often forgets to perform basic tasks because she’s been thinking about ducks. When a job offer arrives to study her beloved birds in the Amazon rainforest, Calla knows her mum has to go.

Nervously, she agrees to go to boarding school. She quickly learns that trouble is afoot in this odd convent school. A mean new headmistress is imposing horrible rules and making everyone eat Brussels sprout cake, and the students are itching to revolt.

As Calla makes new friends and gets drawn into their rebellious plot, she keeps waiting for her mum to call. She will, won’t she?

Exuberantly funny and brimming with heart, How to Be Brave is a riotous celebration of the power of resourceful girls, stories and the right biscuit at the right time.