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Simon Chapman Interview

An interview with Simon Chapman

Simon Chapman is the author and illustrator of ‘Explorer’s Wanted’ a series of ten books about different parts of the world filled with fiendish facts, quizzes and historical information. The series won him the accolade of being the author of the Blue Peter Book Award for ‘Best Book with Facts’ in 2005. Simon has written books for Barrington Stoke including ‘The Land of Whizzing Arrows’, ‘Death Leap’ and ‘Snow Tigers’. We were delighted to catch up with Simon on publication of his new series, ‘You Choose’.

Where is the most exciting place you have been on your adventures and why?

The forests of Northern Bolivia. It’s a place I keep going back to. It's where the Andes mountains meets the Amazon rainforest. In a fifty mile trek you can go from mountain peaks through jungle valleys into grasslands and swamps. It’s full of wildlife like spider monkeys, jaguars and macaws - and most of it is still unexplored.

Can you tell us how you set about turning some of your adventures into books for children?

I make loads of sketches and small water colour paintings in my expedition diaries and I write about odd or interesting things that have happened, for example sketching how the locals sling their hammocks between trees or cut balsawood logs to make rafts. Then I read a lot about how other people have explored in that area and combine the ideas together.

What top three tips would you give to would-be explorers?

  • 1. Prepare! Read up about where you’re going, look at maps, learn the local language- if possible.
  • 2. Travel light- you only need two sets of clothes in the jungle, one to get dirty in the day and a clean set to get into to relax in the evening
  • 3. Keep going and don’t give up when the going gets tough- e.g. when it's been pouring for days

Which book did you enjoy writing the most?

Actually it’s whatever I’m writing at the time - which just recently has been about Zeppelins in World War One. I enjoyed researching the old explorer stories behind Snow Tigers and the Land of the Whizzing arrows - and writing Jungle Crash (just about to come out) as it was me imagining how I would survive it I had just crash landed in the rainforest.

Do you think factual books for children sometimes suffer in comparison with fiction?

Unsure. I certainly think ‘horrible histories’ did a lot for fun kids’ non-fiction but also that there’s a lot more interesting subjects that could be dealt with that is not being published perhaps because fiction is seen as more glamorous.

How different was writing this to Explorer’s Wanted?

The main difference was that the stories are fiction unlike in Explorers Wanted where there are potted histories of real-life adventurers in amongst the activities. Explorers Wanted got you to choose kit and quizzed you about how to explore different types of wilderness. ‘You Choose’ puts you in various situations in each chapter with you making the decisions that decide if you die or survive to do the next chapter.

Were there any challenges in writing a choose your own adventure series?

Making the end of chapter activities hard enough to be an exciting challenge but not too hard that means ‘you’ always die. I’ve had to think of the activities carefully; for instance - If ‘you’ survive, you have to be able to do the next chapter. That means you can’t have the option where you live but end up losing the equipment that you need to complete the next chapter.