You may know Stuart Simmonds as an ex-pro cricketer and an accomplished sports coach. But your children may know him as an author. Stuart first started considering writing children’s books because of a promise he made to his daughter when she was just five. For her 21st birthday, he presented her with the first edition drafts of his Hannah the Spanner series.
Following on from the critically acclaimed ‘Hannah the Spanner’ series and ‘Harry the Karate Monkey’ children’s books, Stuart Simmonds brings us the first three rhyming tales from his new Sevenhills Stories series. In this interview with Stuart Simmonds, we talk to him about his writing and the Sevenhills Stories.
What did you do before writing?
I used to play and coach sport for years before combining it with starting a property business in 2014. I was lucky enough to play and coach at places all over the world.
How did you go from playing and coaching cricket to writing?
I’d finished playing cricket after what seemed like forever, so I sat down one day the following winter and thought I’d write it all down. This became my first book Watching with my Heroes. It’s essentially the story of a bored little boy who managed to avoid getting a proper job by means of being able to bowl a little red ball at some stumps quicker than most people where I came from. Thankfully, people really liked it, which was a nice surprise.
What was the inspiration for your first series, Hannah the Spanner?
These are the stories I made up for my eldest daughter Hannah when she was a small girl. We started because the books she brought home from school were so poor. So Hannah and the Dancing Bear was born, followed by Hannah and the Robot and so on. Before I knew it, I had a few to chose from when it came to writing them down properly so many years later.
What was Hannah’s reaction when she first saw the books
We managed to keep it secret for her so it was a complete surprise for her 21st birthday. When she opened the wrapping paper, she saw the dancing bear and burst into tears.
Your recent launch of the Sevenhills stories sees you embark into rhyming stories, why did you decide to do that?
I had a look at the sort of books that were about in shops and popular at schools. I was also looking to do something a bit different from Hannah and Harry that might get people’s attention. So, a couple of my teaching friends suggested over lunch one day that I have should have a try at rhyming books as they were always a hit with the children in their class. So I thought I’d have a go.
Is it harder to write rhyming books?
I have to say I actually found it alright. The only one we did the pictures first for was Stan but I already had an idea in my head for what I wanted to do there. Thankfully, I think there are a few more rhyming books still to come!
The characters in the Hannah and Harry books are based on your daughters but who was the inspiration for your latest characters?
The idea for Fraser came when Lucy tried to cut my hair with some clippers during the first lockdown. She buzzed the back of my hair and left a huge hole so I had to wear a hat for a few weeks until it grew back.
Parker and Rudi are obviously my two dogs. Lucy asked me to do a story about them, so I thought… why not? I saw a picture of two dogs in a private jet whilst waiting for my car to be done so that gave me the idea for that one.
Stan was a catchy title I had in my head and we used an idea for a possible Hannah book where all these amazing things happened in one day and no one noticed. The telephone bit with the Dad at the start came from when I was stuck on the phone arguing with my useless energy provider and lost the will to live for an hour.
What advice would you offer to parents of reluctant readers?
I would let them read whatever they fancy and whatever they might be interested in at the time. My daughter Hannah was a reluctant reader at first. She started out by reading football programmes because she hated the books that the school gave her.
Have a go at making up some stories between the two of you. Use your imaginations and see what comes out at the other end. Create the voices, make the noises, and have some fun. This is time with your child, make it as enjoyable as possible. If you think the stories have potential, record them, write them down. Get your children to draw or paint the characters that you’ve made up. You never know, these character scribblings may be worth a fortune one day!
Try to make your time different from what they receive at school. Find out the subjects your child likes and enjoys and then use that as a template for future books and projects. Go to the libraries and local booksellers and see what you can pick up.
Since starting Stuhead, we have been to hundreds of schools and workshops all over the country trying to help children to become interested in all things book-related. Focusing on the journey from the ridiculous things going on inside my head. How it goes from there all the way to the bookshops and websites. We hope to teach the children how to use their imaginations, either through words or illustrations. This for me is a child’s biggest tool. We try to give them the chance to run with it and see where it takes them.
What’s next for Stuart Simmonds? Are there more books on the horizon?
Yes, I’m sure there are more to come from all the series. We’re also trying hard to get the stories onto the TV screens so that takes up our time as well as writing the ideas for more Hannah, Harry and Sevenhills Stories. Fingers crossed we can pull that off as well.
Our Book Reviews
We have had the chance to review quite a few of Stuart Simmonds’ books over this past year. We have found them all very enjoyable and very funny. They are books that we highly recommend. You can read our reviews below