Scoop caught up with author and illustrator James Foley ahead of the publication of his latest book, Dungzilla.
A child inventor, a giant dung beetle and a curious, mischievous baby. James Foley’s latest children’s book, Dungzilla, is about as fun as you can get. It’s the second book in the Sally Tinker series, following on from the success of Brobot. But the Perth author and illustrator hasn’t gone for your traditional storytelling style.
‘The cartoon/graphic novel style just seemed the best fit for the story,’ he says. ‘I’m not particularly good at describing scenes in words, so for me a comic book is the closest way I can translate the movie that I see in my head onto the page. That way other people can see it as well.’
He says he’s found that adults and kids alike are very receptive to the style. ‘Most parents just want their kids to read, so comics work well for those who are reluctant. It can be useful for really clever readers too by acting as a kind of literary bridge to novels.’
James had ambitions to be an illustrator from an early age; ‘I did actually want to make books. I wanted to be a comic book artist or an editorial cartoonist for newspapers, or a librarian or a teacher. It was an ambition and I was really lucky to have parents and teachers who encouraged my creativity. I ended up in the place where I was supposed to be.’
But the big question is, what came first, the illustration or the writing? ‘I started working as an illustrator first, but I’ve already been interested in the writing side as well – it was just a matter of practicing. It was all about learning, trying to do it and then making lots of mistakes until I was ready for it.’
As an illustrator, James says it’s all about doing what he loves rather than trying to follow trends.
‘I don’t know if I stand out or not, I’m just trying to make books that I would have enjoyed as a kid and that entertain me now as a big kid. Hopefully there are other kids out there, little and big, who feel the same.’
With titles like Brobot and Dungzilla, it’s easy to see why James had made a name for himself as an author. But where does he get these wacky ideas? ‘Oh, all sorts of places,’ he says. ‘From weird articles on blogs or Wikipedia, to just some crazy fact I’ve picked up. Dungzilla was a weird idea that came up in a sketchbook about 13 years ago and it wasn’t until I made Brobot last year that it resurfaced. The idea was to have a B-grade movie-style giant monster, but instead of it being really terrifying, it’s just a dung beetle.’
Although he works from home, James says he might need to find a slightly quieter spot very soon. ‘My first child is due in December, so I’m going to have to find a quiet place outside of the house. Anywhere can be inspirational if there’s a deadline that’s really close.’
Dungzilla is published on September 1 by Fremantle Press.