Paul Coomey

Stick Boy
Paul Coomey

Biography

Paul Coomey is an all-round talented writer and illustrator who spends his hours doodling and creating stories.

Paul is from Cork, Ireland, and now lives in London. Stick Boy is his debut novel.

 

Interview

January 2021

All STICK BOY wants is to fit in and to make friends - but as a cartoon character in the real world, both of these are difficult.

 

In this Q&A, author Paul Coomey tells us about his fabulous debut, and what inspired him to write Stick Boy (Stripes Publishing)

1. This is your first children's book - what do you do when you're not writing children's books?

When I'm not writing children's books, I work as an art director at a little company called Wonderbly. My job there is to work with illustrators and book designers to figure out the best ways to tell stories with pictures.

 

2. What is Stick Boy about?

Stick Boy is about how you can stick out and still fit in.

 

3. What sparked the idea for Stick Boy, a cartoon character in a 'real' world?

I had a half-story in my head about feelings and about how we grown-ups and children often hide ours. I wondered what the world would be like for someone who wasn't able hide their feelings from everyone else - what that would mean for them. Then I started doodling, imagining how different feelings might look in an illustration.

I was thinking about simple and exaggerated expressions, like on PECS cards, but also about how confusion feels scribbly, and anxiety feels wobbly, stuff like that. I tried draw a character around those doodles of feelings, and that character became Stick.

 

4. As a cartoon character, Stick has superpowers - he can unpick locks, change shape, fall apart and put himself back together again. How did he evolve?

Ha! I call them his super-ish powers, because they're not quite supernatural. They're more like skills that we do as kids - like spinning a basketball or bottle tricks or handstands, but some of them are special to Stick because of how he's put together, and some of them, like the lock picking, appeared because of what he had to do in the story.

 

5. Stick Boy has a real problem with school bullies; why did you decide to put bullying at the centre of the story?

This is a tough question. For me, Stick's story is about two things, bullying and friendship. When I was writing it, Stick getting bullied just for being different was the starting point - people being treated badly because of how they look or who they are is something that happens all the time, both to grown-ups and children. How Stick and the other characters deal with everything that happens afterwards is the real story.

 

6. There's also a mystery to solve - were these the kinds of books you enjoyed as a child?

Totally. I'm old, really old - like 42. When I was a kid, there was a family living near us whose kids were even older than me, and I read their old books. I read lots of Secret Seven and Famous Five and science fiction from the 1950s where there was always a problem to solve or a surprise to be uncovered.

All of those mysteries happened in places that were very different from the one I grew up in though, and with Stick Boy I wanted the world of Little Town and the mystery to be more like our world.

 

7. You've illustrated Stick Boy yourself, so how did you decide on what style to use and how did you create the images? Even though he is a 'stick man', was it hard to get Stick Boy's 'look'?

Yes, it was! I wanted Stick to be simple enough to draw (for me and for other people) but to still have his own characteristics so that he's unique. This is why he has that funny hair.

I worked with Tom, the Art Director at Little Tiger, on lots and lots of variations before we found the right look. The overall illustration style is influenced by the comics that I read as a kid.

 

8. So you were a fan of comic books as a child - what were your favourites?

Yes, I loved and still love comics - check out The Phoenix everyone. When I was a child I read the Beano and the Dandy, and Commando and Roy of the Rovers and a comic called Big Comic that was made up of bits of lots of other comics.

My favourite was Asterix. I loved how he was always able to take on the big bad guys with the help of his friends. A bit like Stick...

 

9. Did you ever create your own comics? What tips would you give to children who like to draw cartoons and comic strips?

Sometimes, yes! I have drawn some silent ones in Stick Boy and some little panels with speech bubbles. Creating comics takes a lot of time, and I need more practice so that I can get better and faster at it.

If you are a kid who loves to draw comics, I would say that an amazing book to read is Making Comics by Scott McCloud.

 

10. Have you got more adventures planned for Stick Boy?

Yes indeed - I have just finished writing Stick's second big adventure and I am about to start drawing! The next story will involve a lot of familiar faces and more fiendish evil plans...

 

11. Where and when do you do your best work?

I do my best work in the mornings, when my brain is still a little fuzzy from dreaming and I haven't been distracted by the radio or the internet yet and I love working at a place in London called the Barbican because lots of people go there to write and to study and the air is full of creative energy. Also they have really good cakes.

 

12. What are your favourite escapes from your desk?

Going to the sea. I love the waves and the salty air and the wind and the noise. My other favourite escape is to go walking in the woods - I love how the colours and the sounds there change with the seasons. And reading!

 

STICK BOY by PAUL COOMEY (Stripes Publishing, £7.99) is now available.

Author's Titles