Magnificent Mabel is a huge hit with newly independent readers! But how did author Ruth Quayle, who wrote the series, create Magnificent Mabel and bring her to life?
Firstly, Ruth, thanks so much for joining us over at The Little Bookstall. We are huge fans of your hilarious short stories featuring the little girl with a big character. Can you tell us how you dreamed her up?
I think Magnificent Mabel has been in my head for ever. I was a bit of a Mabel myself as a child and I’ve always loved strong, funny characters in fiction. When my own children were small they were quite Mabel-ish and I used to scribble down the funny things they said. But it wasn’t until my brilliant publisher Nosy Crow came up with the title Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot that I sat down and wrote the first Magnificent Mabel book. It was the easiest thing I have ever written – it honestly just seemed to write itself!
How did you feel when you first saw the illustration of Mabel by Julia Christians?
Relief. I could tell at once that Julia had captured Mabel perfectly. I absolutely love her illustrations and only wish I could draw as well as she does.
We really love the way you bring Mabel to life in your series of Magnificent Mabel stories. It seems like she’s a real child! Is she based on someone you know?
Mabel is based on so many people. She’s a little bit me and she’s a little bit my own children but she’s also influenced by some of my favourite characters in fiction. Like most of us, she’s a messy old mix – and all the better for it!
The Magnificent Mabel series is one of our most popular with young readers who are just gaining reading confidence. What do you think it is about her that makes her so very popular?
I think most children can recognise a bit (or a lot!) of Mabel in themselves.
When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A gymnast! I was obsessed with the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci but unfortunately I wasn’t very good at doing back flips!
Well, I am super pleased that your back flips weren’t up to much! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the lovely Mabel! Before you wrote Magnificent Mabel, you were a journalist. How does being a children’s book writer compare to writing for magazines?
It’s definitely less glamorous. When I worked on magazines, I spent my time in busy offices in central London. I’m more likely to be found in a village near Oxford these days – in my kitchen!
What’s the best thing about being an author?
The absolute best thing is getting to see your name in print. I’ve written 15 books now and seeing Ruth Quayle on the cover and spine still thrills me every time!
What advice would you give to a child who wants to write books?
Read, read, read. You can discover most of the secrets to writing your own books on the pages of your favourite books. Also, don’t worry about using perfect spelling and grammar. Plot and character are way more important.
Do you have a special place where you do your writing? And a routine?
I, supposedly, write at my lovely tidy desk but the truth is I write anywhere – in bed, on the sofa, in cafes or even when I’m supposed to be watching one of my children play cricket. If I’m stuck, moving around seems to help me.
What were your favourite books when you were a child?
So many. I loved Pippi Longstocking and Just William. I guzzled everything by Noel Streatfeild, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. I adored books about Second World War evacuees, such as Goodnight Mister Tom and Carrie’s War. I loved the Ramona books by Beverley Cleary and laughed out loud at the Private Keep Out series by Gwen Grant. I read everything I could get my hands on and when there wasn’t anything new to read I re-read my old favourites.
What advice do you have for children who don’t like reading?
Don’t read books just because your friends happen to like them, read what YOU like. If you aren’t ready to leave picture books behind then keep reading them. If you prefer comic books, go for it. If all you want to read is the Guinness Book of Records that’s fine too. Reading should be fun, not hard work.
And, back to Mabel. Who would play Magnificent Mabel in a movie?
Gosh, wouldn’t that be fun. My daughter Stella longs to be an actor so maybe she could give it a go!
What’s next for Mabel?
The sixth book in the series, Magnificent Mabel and the Very Bad Birthday Party, comes out in February 2022. As the title suggests, it is Mabel’s turn to have a birthday but sometimes life isn’t even fair. Mabel has to invite EVERYONE in her class to her birthday or she won’t get any presents.
And our last question to the lovely author Ruth Quayle who wrote the Magnificent Mabel series…..
What are you writing at the moment?
I have just finished writing the third book in my Muddlemoor Mysteries series, featuring Joe Robinson and his cousins, Tom and Pip. I am currently cooking up some new ideas for young fiction and picture books. Watch this space!
Ooooh! This sounds super exciting! We’ll eagerly await the next of Joe, Tom and Pip’s adventures!
A huge thanks to writer, Ruth Quale, for joining us to talk about Magnificent Mabel and for her writing tips. If you have newly independent readers, we highly recommend the Magnificent Mabel series for building their reading confidence. Take a look here to check out the some sample pages.