Photo: © Marcy Malloy
About the Author
Carol Hughes was born in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in a seaside town in Lancashire. She now lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My world upside down . . .
I have been a writer my whole life, but oddly enough I didn’t realize it until I was grown up. Looking back I can see that I was always writing and making up stories. I always loved writing essays at school and, when I went to art college, I filled my sketchbooks with stories instead of drawings.
In my late twenties, I met my husband. He turned my world upside down by pointing out to me that, as I was forever writing, perhaps I ought to try my hand at writing a book. Amazed by this revelation, I wrote Toots and the Upside-Down House and Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves.
All I had to do was go for it . . .
I have been incredibly lucky in my life. For starters, my parents always told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be—all I had to do was go for it. They always encouraged and supported me in all the mad, often nutty, schemes I dreamed up.
The only real difficulty I ever faced was when, for some reason, I lost all my confidence. It was terrible. For almost a year I couldn’t write anything and everything I tried to write was awful. Then a friend, another writer, gave me an incredibly useful piece of advice. She said “Just give yourself permission to write really badly and then get on with it.” So that was what I did. Everyday I wrote. Most of it was dreadful, but the more I wrote the less I worried about whether it was any good or not. And after a while I began to enjoy writing again. That episode showed me that you have to find the fun in what you are doing—otherwise, what’s the point?
I do all my acting on the page instead of in the spotlight . . .
In school I always wanted to be an actor, but I was very shy so, instead of getting up and acting characters out on a stage, I started inventing them in my notebooks and diaries. Even now I sometimes think I am really an actor, but I do all my acting on the page instead of in the spotlight.
When I’m writing new characters, the actor in me emerges. I suppose all the characters must, in some way, be part of me (even the horrid, mean, and conniving ones like Gadfly or Sabrina) and, when I write about them, I get to see what it would be like to be that way for a while. The really horrible characters are the most fun to write. The Maggo sisters in Toots Underground are my favorites. I didn’t have to do any work to find out who they were—one day they started talking and I just copied down what they said.
I love strong, capable characters . . .
I’m probably most similar to Toots. Like her, I tend to take the long way round to learning life’s important lessons and, like Toots, I often get in my own way. I wish I were more like Olive Brown. She’s so kind and positive and good-tempered. Of course, if I could be anyone, I’d like to be the kind of self-sufficient lady who could support herself on a desert isle like Dorothy Dobson in Jack Black or, if I were very daring, I’d be an adventurous aviatrix like Beryl. I love strong, capable characters.
I spent a lot of time searching for secret passageways and hidden worlds . . .
When I was little, my parents kept a small hotel that had 20 bedrooms. It was a fantastic place to grow up. All summer it was full of guests, but in the winter it was closed and I had the run of the whole place. I remember I spent a lot of time searching for secret passageways and hidden worlds. My favorite book back then was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and you’d think, wouldn’t you, that in a hotel with 20 huge, old-fashioned wardrobes at least one of them would lead to Narnia.
Most often the starting point for my stories is my desire to go somewhere I can’t physically go. I began Toots and the Upside-Down House because I wanted to visit the ceiling and see what it would feel like if my world was turned upside down. Once I started writing it, I got to go inside the walls of the house and discover the bits of buildings we don’t normally see. With Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves, all I knew was that I wanted to fly on an airship and the whole story grew from that one desire.
JACK BLACK & THE SHIP OF THIEVES
“Sailing through the skies or sailing through the seas, the action never stops.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“With a swashbuckling style and an imagination in overdrive, Hughes grabs readers on page one and never lets go.”—Publishers Weekly
TOOTS & THE UPSIDE-DOWN HOUSE
“Successfully [combines] humor, adventure, and serious issues such as loyalty and honesty.”—Booklist