Brothers McLeod on their new book Knight Sir Louis and the Dragon of Doooooom!
The unstoppable Brothers McLeod - writer Myles and illustrator/animator Greg - have just published the follow up to their hilarious children's fiction debut Knight Sir Louis and the Dreadful Damsel. Here Myles tells Herald arts about Knight Sir Louis and the Dragon of Doooooom!
Knight Sir Louis has returned for another caper... can you remind us the backstory to creating Louis and how successful the first book has been?
Knight Sir Louis is a bonkers, pythonesque tale about a heroic boy knight who is about the only sensible person in a completely ridiculous kingdom called Squirrel Helm. It's written by myself, Myles, and illustrated by my brother Greg. Greg came up with the original idea for his son Louis about 11 years ago. Louis is now an adult, by the way! It started out as a series of comic style drawings with a cast of fun characters. I loved them too and was inspired to write a story for Louis based on them. That led to the original version of the book, which Greg read to Louis. Then a few years later I dug it out, rewrote it and we found a great publisher Guppy Books through our agent.
The first book is about to be reprinted, which is fantastic news. It's also due to appear in a few other places and formats though I can't tell you where yet, or I'd be thrown into a dungeon. The book was also picked up for the Parrot Street Book Club, who create extra goodies based on their chosen books.
Book 2 has just come out and this time it's all about dragons! Thanks to the success of the first one, there will also be a third book, coming out in 2022.
What is the nicest thing someone has said about your books?
We've had some wonderful things said about the book by children and parents alike. The author Jo Nadin, who wrote the fantastic Joe All Alone amongst others, gave us a great quote, "I love these books SO much! Mr Gum levels of weird and brilliant!" as well as writing on Twitter, "Read this. It will very probably make you laugh like a drain." The journalist Stuart Heritage wrote about book two: "We finished this last night, and then I heard my six-year-old talking about one of the characters in his sleep." That's next level stuff! And I think one of my favourites was in the School Librarian journal where the review said, "[A] ridiculously appealing story. Wacky, original, fantastic and funny." That's the kind of review you dream about.
Artists notoriously struggle with producing a second album after delivering a successful first, how was that with this follow up?
Ha! Yes. I'm now worried about book three, because book two came surprisingly easily. Writing about dragons is just too much fun. The only really tricky bit was where we added in an interactive story element. You have to choose your own way through a few of the chapters.
What did you learn from writing the first, and what modifications have you made?
Knight Sir Louis has short chapters, and often uses different types of writing and storytelling. There is prose, but also comics, letters, menus, recipes, silly graphs, interviews, and poems. The second book has the same kind of variety, but with some fresh ideas too. There were also some favourite characters from the first book too, like Mr Catalogue, who returns in the second book. I think readers would have been disappointed it Catalogue had not returned to help Louis on his new quest.
You've called it Knight Sir Louis and the Dragon of Doooooom! Is the number of 'o's significant? And presumably the dragon is a bad ass?! Tell us about he/she/them.
The main reason Doooooom is spelt the way it is, is because it is ridiculous. In the book, Doooooom is an actual place. Doooooom is not a pretty country. It’s not the sort of place you’d find in a holiday brochure. Not unless you like taking your holidays inside a volcano. It's also home to main baddy in the book, Borax the double-headed dragon. Borax is a lover of chaos and has plans to singe as many places as possible, including the towns of Little Matchstick and Much Kindling. Louis' mission is to find a way to stop this terrible lizard before it destroys King-Burt-the-Not-Bad's home at Castle Sideways.
If you could be any character in the book who would it be?
Well, if it wasn't Knight Sir Louis, I think it would be interesting to be Clunkalot, the flying, robot horse that likes to write poems. He's the strong, silent type.
Have you got more Sir Louis ventures planned?
There will be a third Knight Sir Louis story out next year. Before that there will also be an activity book (out this summer) with puzzles, crosswords, colouring in called Knight Sir Louis and the Kingdom of Puzzles. That has a little bit of a story in it too, because I loved the idea of there being a baddy who was obsessed with puzzles and puzzling.
What else have you been up to in lockdown and what are you working on at the moment?
Greg and I have mostly been busy working on our new children's series for Channel 5's Milkshake! strand. The show is called Circle Square and there will be 40 episodes eventually. It's an animated comedy about neighbours. There's a dragon in that too, but she's much more friendly! Vanessa the Dragon helps out with everyday dilemmas and each episode features a different friend needing her help. There are nine households in the community and they include a yeti, a family of emergency service owls, a keyboard and a drum, a family of wizards, a grumpy dog, an elderly adventuring bear and a couple of walking, talking pine trees. I think it's safe to say, it's a bit bonkers too.