Monday, 22 September 2014

What's it all about, Alfie? by Malachy Doyle

I was sent a list of questions the other day. They came from a publicist who wanted information in advance of my next picture book. 
Most of them were easy enough:

Did you ever imagine you’d reach a hundred books? (it’s going to be my 100th book - whoopydoo!)

What inspired you to write it?
What sort of relationship did you have with your grandparents?  (it’s about grandparents, sort of)`
How many bobble hats do you have? (read the book and you’ll understand)

But one question stopped me in my tracks:
What keeps you motivated in what is predominantly a solitary occupation?

Hmmm.  Interesting.  Here’s what I wrote back (with additional thoughts, for your eyes only, added here, in italics):

I love being a writer.  It’s far-and-away my favourite occupation. (beats packing Polo Mints on the night shift, anyway.  And ‘working’ in the British Rail laundry, reading Emile Zola behind an enormous pile of sheets.  Oh, and ‘teaching’ a bunch of unruly sixteen year old girls in inner-city Leeds, in the year they’d just raised the school leaving age. They did NOT want to be there!)

I love living in a world of imagination.

I love having total freedom as to when and what to write.

 Writing’s hard, but I love the buzz you get when you know you’ve cracked it. (even if, the next day, you realise you maybe haven’t)

I love that young children are so open to joy, to excitement, to wonder.  I love living in the mind of the four, five, six-year-old Malachy, of seeing the world through his eyes and trying to capture some of that joy, wonder, excitement (and silliness) on the page.

I love making books, and working with illustrators and good editors. (not that there are any bad editors, of course, but we all have our moments!)

I love the first time I get my hands on the finished product.  (like last week – Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires, illustrated by my very own daughter, Hannah. Whoopy-doopy-doo!) 

 I love reading my books to children (especially little Daniel, above), and watching them read the books  themselves.

Books have brought so much joy to my life – it’s a privilege and a continuing wonder to be a part of bringing some of that joy to the next generation.

So that’s what it's all about, to me.  That's what keeps me motivated.  Anything you’d add, anyone?

My latest picture book is called Peek-a-Book, illustrated by Rowan Martin (Parragon, August)
My storybook, Pete and the Five-a-side Vampires, illustrated by my daughter, Hannah Doyle - it's her very first book - is published by Firefly Press (September)
And my next picture book, Tadcu's Bobble Hat, my 100th book, illustrated by Dorry Spikes, is published by Gomer Press in October. 


  1. Congratulations on the 100th book, Malachy! That's quite an achievement. I've only just reached my 50th book.

    And some great explanations as to what motivates you as an author. A friend of mine who's an occupational psychologist asked me to write a guest post for her blog about what motivates me earlier this year and the reasons I gave seem a bit dull and uninspiring in comparison to yours.

  2. All this and you get paid too ;-)
    I think the question is a bit odd and disjointed, I mean, an occupation being a solitary one has no bearing on motivation to my mind. .
    Nobody asks, "How do you stay motivated working in this office full of people, isn't it distracting?" do they? It's 'normal' so the question never arises ;-) But say you work on your own at home and people can't understand how you work at all in those circs.
    Great pics Malachy ;-) I had a bobble hat but my daughter swiped it. .
    She had hair like Daniel's when she was little. (Dyed it black now of course. . Like they do.)
    What a cutie ;-)

  3. 100!!! Congratulations :-) Enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about your motivation. I've been thinking about what motivates me and I believe the biggest motivator is a deadline (not set by myself as I'll believe any feeble excuse!). I always keep to deadlines and a deadline also means somebody wants what I'm writing. What I find most demotivating is writing and never knowing if anyone will respond to what I've written - that's the problem with speculative writing. But hey, it doesn't totally stop me!

  4. Thanks, you three. I totally agree Jonathan - why on earth should the opportunity to work for yourself and on your own be considered demotivating?
    Interesting about deadlines, Paeony - I'm not a big fan, really. They force me to work to someone else's timetable, which takes away some of my control. Yes, I get the job done, but they're rarely my favourite work. Handy if there's money upfront, of course.

  5. Yippee!, Malachy. One hundred books. That's fantastic.

    I'm always inspired by children in school visits and I love the contrast between working on my own some of the time (in contrast to the chaotic noise of having children) and standing up in front of hundreds of children and creating bizarre combined stories together. You put it very eloquently.