Olaf Falafel – Q&A

Olaf Falafel

Olaf Falafel

A surrealist comedian, children’s book author/illustrator and winner of the Funniest Joke of The Edinburgh Festival. Olaf’s stand up shows include his award nominated debut hour ‘Olaf Falafel and The Cheese Of Truth’, ‘The Marmosets Of My Mind’, ‘Knitting With Maracas’ and the award winning ‘There’s no i in idiot’.

Olaf is the author and illustrator of several kids books including the flatulent ‘Old MacDonald Heard A Parp’ trilogy, ‘It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind’, ‘Blobfish’ and his first middle grade series for Puffin Books ‘Trixie Pickle Art Avenger’.

As well as finding comedic success onstage, Falafel has also enjoyed online fame with his short viral videos. These absurdist movies include slices of truth telling cheese being thrown onto newspapers, Opera singers mixed with modem dial up tones and the Bee Gees hiding in his beard.

The comedy website Chortle affectionately described Falafel as ‘an idiot’ and when he doesn’t have a microphone in his hand you’ll probably find him with a pencil and pad trying to draw something equally idiotic.

Olaf can be found at:
Website: www.olaffalafel.com
Twitter: @OFalafel
Instagram: @olaffalafel

When did you know you wanted to become an illustrator?

When i was around 8 or 9 I used to make my own comics, get my dad to photocopy them at work and sell them in the playground at school. That was probably the start of both my comedy and my illustration.

How long does it typically take to make a page or cover for a book?

It varies so much – I’ve just created a cover for a book proposal that took me four hours but I’ve got spreads in some of my picture books that have taken four days

What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?

I love the Pentel Brush pen, it gives a great line and it’s not to messy. I swear by it.

Do you have a favourite colour scheme, if so what and why?

Before I was a comedian/author/illustrator I worked in design and ad agencies. One designer nicknamed me Timmy Mallet because I always liked using bright and garish colour combinations. He still calls me it to this day.

Who were your inspirations when starting out?

Pete Fowler was and is the illustrator whose work I’ve always loved. I discovered him through the artwork he did for the Super Furry Animals, I love the characters he creates – a perfect blend of funny with stylish.

Do you have another job beside being an illustrator, if so what?

I’m a comedian! The two jobs really go hand in hand for me, especially as I like to try and make funny books. Also the onstage experience helps when I do school events, a room full of kids and a room full of drunk adults are surprisingly similar!

What do you do to overcome a creative block?

Go for a walk – I read something ages ago about kinetic thinking – how your brain fires up when the legs are going. Could be complete rubbish but my brain seems to enjoy a stroll.

Do you have a favourite piece in your portfolio, if so could you share it and talk about it?

I like the nap/dream illustration from Old MacDonald Heard A Parp. Partly for sentimental reasons because it was my first ever children’s book and also because it’s quite weird. There are floppy Dalí-esque clock, a farting unicorn and a couple of hidden jokes in there such as the planet Mercury looking like Freddie Mercury.

What was your first book related project?

It was Old MacDonald Heard A Parp which was originally called Old MacDonald Heard A Fart but the publishers felt it was too rude for UK audiences so I begrudgingly changed it. You can get hold of hardback Fart copies in Australia and New Zealand though!

What type of media do you prefer to work in and why?

Ink and watercolours or digitally drawing in Procreate.

Do you have a playlist you like working to? If so do you want to share it?

Lately I’ve been listening to Dave Brubek when I need to think – the upbeat scattergun jazz seems to help. If I’m drawing and don’t need to think too much I’ll have a movie playing in the background. Anything with Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington usually does the job.

Do you have any rituals when working?

Not really, I like to change things up in terms of where in the house I draw – I get bored if I’m in the same chair for too long.

Do you have a favourite artist outside of the world of books, if so who and why?

Peter Blake has always been a favourite since my college days. I like his deceptively simplistic style and the humour in his paintings.

Did the books you read as a child influence your work?

I loved Richard Scarry’s books when I was little, I was fascinated by all the small details and how all the different things were labelled. The running jokes that went through his books are definitely something I try and add to mine. When I was a bit older, around nine or ten I discovered The Ha Ha Bonk Book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It was filled with great jokes, surreal characters and loads of bonus humour within the illustrations.

Has your illustration/art style changed over time?

I have an instinctive way of drawing characters that has remained fairly consistent over the years – bendy limbs and a treble-yoo nose (like a double-you but with an extra u). I like to experiment with different mediums and styles but I like to try and keep it recognisable as something I’ve made.

How closely do you work with the author on developing the illustrations for a book?

Very closely as the author in most cases is me!

If you could illustrate any classic book which would it be and why?

I quite like the idea of illustrating A Midsummer Night’s Dream because of all the fairies, fools, queens and kings.

Which illustrated books in the last year have you loved?

I’m a big fan of Gustavo The Shy Ghost by Flavia Z Drago and also the follow up Leila The Perfect Witch.

If you can please tell us about your latest project and if not your last project.

Trixie Pickle Art Avenger is my latest book, it’s also my first foray into ‘middle grade’ chapter books. I was (and still am) what they call a ‘reluctant reader’ so I wanted to make something accessible to kids like me. It’s influenced by The Beano, Diary of a Wimpy kid, The Ha Ha Bonk Book and Viz. I’ve rammed it full of funny illustrations and because it features real facts on famous artists as well as farts it’s the perfect blend of high and low brow and actually quite educational. Also, the follow up book, Trixie Pickle Art Avenger Toxic Takedown is out on May 4th so that’s exciting!

Do you have any events on in the near future?

I’m at the Leicester Festival on February 19th where I’ll be doing a book event followed by a family friendly comedy event and then a ‘grown up’ comedy show. I’ll be up at the Edinburgh Festival again in August doing loads of funny stuff.


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Katharine Orton – Q&A

Katharine Orton

Katharine Orton

After gaining an English degree and an MA in creative writing, Katharine Orton worked for Barefoot Books in Bath before leaving to focus on her writing and her young family. She signed with her agent after taking part in the brilliant WoMentoring Scheme. Nevertell was Katharine’s first novel. She currently lives in Bristol.

Katharine can be found at:
Twitter: @KatharineOrton
Instagram: @katharineortonwrites
Website: www.katharineorton.com

Tell me what inspired you to write your most recent novel?

Mountainfell grew out of a big old mix of things. My grandparents were mountaineers, so mountains themselves have always fascinated me. On top of that I’m a massive nature lover, and I’m so interested in the relationship between us humans and the world around us – how we can mistreat it, even fear it, and how we (weirdly, I think!) see it as something separate from ourselves. I also wanted to write about feeling a bit different, or a bit out of place, and that journey of self-discovery that so many of us (if not all) end up going on at some point in our lives. All these different threads wove together to form Mountainfell.

What came first the characters or the world?

With some book ideas the characters come first, and in others it’s the world, but with Mountainfell, it was the mountain! Everything else – both the world and the characters – evolved around it and, in a way, grew out of it. The more I learned about the mountain, the more it influenced how Erskin – the main character – developed, and vice versa. So they were always kind of linked from the start.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Nevertell was my first published book, and it was also the one that got me my agent too. Writing it and getting it into shape took me a really long time (a solid couple of years, if not more). I’d also written other things before Nevertell that sadly just didn’t get anywhere. These now sit forever in the hypothetical cupboard drawer (i.e. files on my laptop). That said, I was actually very lucky with my debut book, because it picked up attention from several publishers very quickly after being sent out!

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Sadly I can’t listen to music when I write, because it’s just too distracting. If I were to pick a song to partner up with Mountainfell, however, I’d probably choose Mountain of Bone by Clutch, as the lyrics line up nicely.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Oh, definitely. I’d absolutely love to give writing sci fi a go… !

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve had lots of jobs, from being a copywriter where I did strange things like naming cheese, to working with traditional stained and fused glass (something which helped inspire another of my books: Glassheart).

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m a huge fan of (and therefore massively inspired by) Max Porter, Madeleine Miller and Alan Moore.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I love to read anything and everything! From children’s books to sci fi and fantasy to what sometimes gets called ‘literary’ fiction, and everything in between. Basically, if it’s book shaped, I’ll give it a go.

What is your biggest motivator?

The promise of cake.

What will always distract you?

The promise of cake.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I was very much into the Narnia books as a child, which I would listen to repeatedly on audio. (And when I say audio, what I actually mean is my tape player, which I know makes me sound really old). My favourite childhood book of all time is one that my Nan gave me, called The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. It has everything: epic adventure, humour, thrills, tragedy, and a talking beaver. I still love it to this day.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Storysmith in Bristol. It’s my local, and it rules!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Enough that, if I were to stack them into an actual pile, I would fear being crushed beneath it.

What is your current or latest read?

At the moment I’m reading The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood, I’m getting stuck into The Expanse books after loving the TV series, and I’ve just finished (and LOVED) the audiobook of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I’ve just started the audiobook of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd on the tail of that, and NEXT I’m looking forward to beginning Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh and Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez. (Once upon a time I was really good at reading just one book at a time. That seems to have fallen apart slightly).

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I can’t wait for Max Porter’s new book, Shy. Lanny and Grief Is The Thing With Feathers are two of my absolute all-time favourites.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I love writing children’s books, particularly middle grade, because I think 12 is about the age where my interest in reading books actually started to take off. Before then I hadn’t been that bothered, and would probably have been classed as a ‘reluctant reader’. I just didn’t see the point in reading, because I had an imagination full of my own stuff all going on that I didn’t want interrupted. Then I learned that reading isn’t the process of a book imposing something on you from above. It’s more collaborative than that, and you, the reader, are a vital part in creating (imagining) the world of the book. And after that, there was no stopping me.


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Midwinter Burning

Tanya Landman. Walker Books. (256p) ISBN 9781406397185

Midwinter Burning

Midwinter Burning

I loved Tanya’s previous books, especially Horse Boy, so was really pleased to get a chance to read her new one.

In Midwinter Burning we start off in prehistory and the scene is set for a midwinter offering, this sets up the rest of the book, especially the idea of outsiders.

We then go to London on the eve of the Second World War and Operation Pied Piper, a voluntary evacuation of children three days before the declaration of war with Germany. Here we meet Alfie, another outsider with a life of rejection and bullying behind him.

His group is evacuated to a village where the stones from the first scene are and here Alfie starts to find what he could feel is a home with Auntie Bell and the animals of the farm he is staying at.

He even eventually makes a friend called Snidge, but his friend is a mystery with a different language and different clothing, Alfie doesn’t want to mention him to others just in case the paranoia of an upcoming war affects this friendship.

Tanya weaves a fascinating tale of two worlds and how they interact, how friendship can overcome adversity, and how even the littlest of us can succeed.

I loved how Alfie and Snidge learned about each others worlds, and how they could inhabit each others worlds was so well done, especially toward the end of the story which is so exciting and tense.

I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

The Red Red Dragon

Lynne Reid Banks, Kristina Kister. Walker Books. (368p) ISBN 9781529507799

The Red Red Dragon

The Red Red Dragon

I’ve been really lucky in the books I’ve been approved for on NetGalley recently and this by Lynne Reid Banks is no exception.

I was initially drawn to it by the beautiful cover by Kristina Kistner as it took a while for it to sink in who had written it and then I just had to get it as I loved her previous work.

We are taken to a world of dragons and uprights, where the uprights have been driven from the mainland after years of war between the species and the dragons are now a caring, peaceful community who solve all problems with conversation and debate, but there is a problem and this needs to be solved quickly or everything will change for dragon society.

This society could be set in our future where the climate emergency has continued apace and humans have developed other species as natural ones went extinct and the heat had helped to develop the dragon species.

Red is the only dragon of that colour and also seems to have the capacity to think thoughts that others of his kind can’t, but more than that he is at the core of some legends that will help the future for them all.

Red and his family progress through a range of different adventures throughout the book to succeed at the mission that has been entrusted to them, and we follow Red as he grows and develops his thinks and his skills.

The developments that move the story on are really well written and executed and we’re always cheering them on to stay true to dragon culture and help the world change for the better. The story is wonderfully supported by illustrations from Kristina Kister. A wonderful book full of warmth and hope.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.