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Q&A with Hazel Edwards

There's a Hippopotamus on my roof eating cake (cover)Issue 9 features a Q&A with Hazel Edwards, author of There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, and Plato the Platypus Plumber (Part-time) and many more books! We could only include a selection of questions in the magazine, so here’s the full interview for you to enjoy.

Where do you live?
In my imagination. But also in the same house (in Blackburn, Victoria) where my cake-eating hippo still lives on the roof.

How old are you?
The age of the character I’m writing at the time.

(Hazel’s Tip: on the publisher’s page of a book there is a year the author was born, like 1945, and then a dash. If there’s nothing after the dash, they are still alive.)

I try to keep my photo up-to-date, my real face.

"Hazel Edwards, author"
Hazel Edwards, 2010

What was the inspiration for There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake?

Our new roof leaked. My then 3-year-old son thought there was a hippo up there, when the workmen banged around trying to fix the leak.

Of your own books, which is your favourite?

The one I haven’t written yet.

"Plato the platypus plumber (part-time) cover"Your favourite character?

Plato the Platypus Plumber, who has a toolkit that also fixes grumpy people. I love the way illustrator John Petropolous has drawn the toolkit, the water pipes and the Cassandra font he’s used (named after his daughter)

Where do you get your ideas?

I have an ideas notebook of things I see or hear, mixed with ‘What if?’ imagination. Other stories depend upon participant-observation, of going and doing something new, knowing you will write about it afterwards. So you pay special attention. Like in Antarctica. Or when I went down the waterways to find out about the platypus.

Why did you become an author?

Being an author is also an excuse for asking questions, and then it’s called research."Cake-Eating Hippo plays by Hazel Edwards"
I like learning new things to write about, and new formats in which to write the stories.

I like (collaborating) working with other creators like co-authors, illustrators, film-makers and puppeteers. I learn new ways of thinking in pictures, movement or textures. Even with interpreters who change the words into another language. Plato is being translated into German. Many of my books are in Braille or Auslan signing for deaf kids, Some are becoming electronically available on Kindle, iPad and iPhone and that’s an exciting and quick way for stories to travel across cultures and countries.

My favourite is when a story is performed especially on stage. I’m loving the process of film-making with Pocket Bonfire.

When did you first appear in print?

A story in the newspaper’s kids’ section when I was about eight.

Are you working on a new project at the moment?

Pocket Bonfire Productions’ short film inspired by There’s a Hippo … is out. Working with these guys across three years has been fun as they read the book as children and remained fans taking it into film, their way of storytelling.

Hazel shares some of the best questions she’s been asked.

I was asked, “Does Plato the Platyplus Plumber  talk to the cake-eating hippo?’ Previously I hadn’t thought about my fantasy character from one picture book talking to one of my others.

Do your characters ever talk to each other?
"Flight of the Bumblebee (cover)"

In my head. Maybe all my characters from different stories could meet? … Imagine a party or a TV panel with the clumsy Bumble from The Flight of the Bumblebee, the grumpy male bellydancing pig from Duckstar, my Gang-O orienteering sleuths … and other characters I haven’t written about yet who are waiting in my imagination.

"Gang-O Kids (cover)"A challenge

A librarian set students a challenge—Make up your own story based only on ALL Hazel’s book titles. Try it. They were allowed to add ‘and’ or ‘but’  joining words. Some fun stories appeared.

Does Hippo cook?

No, but recently we did a Channel 31 ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ program. Two 10 year olds made ‘hippo footprints’ (pancakes) and ‘ muddy platypus bubbles’ while I read the books Plato the Platypus Plumber and  Hooray There’s a Hippo on Our Roof Having a birthday Party’. We also made ‘ant bread.’

Do your children help with stories?

My children are adults now but I co-wrote, ex-blog  Cycling Solo; Ireland to Istanbul with my son Trevelyan. He did all the cycling. Now 11-year-old Truman helps me with story ideas.

How long does it take to write a book?

There’s thinking time and writing time. And re-writing time. I do about ten drafts. A picture book takes an illustrator at least a year to draw, sometimes longer.

"Duckstar (cover)" Any advice to aspiring illustrators?

I write an art brief, which is like a letter to the artist. For Plato, I asked for a plumber’s tool kit with a mobile phone that a platypus could wear underwater.

Any advice if doing a project on an author?
1.    Read at least three of the author’s books
2.    Google the author’s website.

What is the kind of answer the Hippo gives to fan’s questions?

"hippo caravan cover"Jenna asked, “How old are you Hippo?”
Hippo said: As the cake-eating, rooftop hippo, I am celebrating the 30th anniversary of being found on the roof. But I am ageless.

Maybe I am your age?

I am as old as you imagine me.

Love from

Hippo (via Hazel who does the typing. My feet are a bit big for the keyboard.)

Visit Hazel Edwards’s website for more about her books and book trailers, notes, reviews and publisher links. You’ll also find a link to Pocket Bonfire Production, film makers of the Hippo.