After Daniel, Ailie, and Emily reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed – see their review) The Boss, we arranged for some of Year 6 to send John and Patrice Aggs some email questions, just as we did with James Turner and The Etherington Brothers.
Thanks very much to Daniel, Ailie, Emily, Joel, and Rosie for the questions, Lauren at Random House for setting up the interview and of course, thanks to John and Patrice Aggs for taking the time to answer the questions!
(Some of those “tricky things” John Aggs wrote for his mother Patrice Aggs)
Rosie: How long did it take to make the book?
Patrice: It seemed like years. But that was mainly the planning. Once John and I had worked out the storyboard part it was only two or three days per page. Plus a lot of time for arguing about what everything looked like!
John: It took mum ages to draw! This is one of the best parts of being a writer. You write all these tricky things to draw and then you can get someone else to make it look cool!
Daniel: How long did it take to write the book?
Patrice: If you count the months of throwing ideas back and forth….actually John had better answer this one!
John: Oh, this is a tricky one. I don’t sit down and write a whole book at once. There’s a lot of putting it aside and doing something else, then returning to it for fresh ideas. The Boss has been rattling around in my head for a while now, in various forms. I was going to make it a comic for adults, but adults are boring.
Joel: What inspired you to write and draw comics?
Patrice: I started writing and drawing comics when I was four. I can’t remember why — it seemed just as normal a thing to do as eating and sleeping. Haven’t stopped yet.
John: Mum had a LOT of comics when I was small. Now she has even more. You have no idea how many comics there are in her house. Seriously, she should really get rid of some.
(A lesson to all – keep your eyes open and the ideas will come! John Aggs turned a boring stop at a service station into the start of The Boss)
Rosie: How do you come up with the ideas?
Patrice: John is the Ideas Man. I just jump up and down while he’s explaining the story, and say Wow! I can’t wait to draw that!
John: I dunno, I just keep my eyes open. The Boss starts in a horrible motorway service station I was stuck in once. I was watching these two guys and they looked like villains to me. Sometimes a place or a person can spark a whole big story. I get very excited and think it’s awesome, then the next day I realise it was actually a pretty good idea, but a terrible story. That’s when I have to sit down and make it into something worth reading!
Daniel: What inspired The Boss?
Patrice: I think there was a story John made up when he was at school that turned into The Boss. We talked a lot about the idea when we were on a family holiday and I finally persuaded John to write it all down properly so we could make the comic.
John: Yeah, I always liked the idea of a class of schoolkids ALL solving a crime. Books always have a team of five, or three, or seven- because it’s hard to keep track of all the names. In a comic we can have loads, because you just
need to remember what they look like!
Joel: Did you ever fall out whilst working on the book (I know I’d fall out with my mom if I worked with her on anything! (Hi Mom)
Patrice: You be nice to your mom! John is always nice to me (not). We are the kind of people who shout at each other a lot, but that doesn’t mean we fall out! The shouting is really important, because that’s when you get to look at all the ideas and problems from all kinds of different angles. John’s dad and sister are really nice, quiet, non-shouty people, and they just roll their eyes at John and I when we start yelling. I love it.
John: Yeah, we don’t really fall out, but there are lots of erm… “healthy discussions”. Mostly when mum wants to know what a certain character or place should look like and I don’t know what they should look like. We have a bunch of arguments about whose job it is to come up with ideas. This is good, I think!
(The Boss = John Aggs? He says no, his mum says yes!)
Emily & Ailie: Is the Boss based on anyone you know?
Patrice: John IS The Boss. He’s the oldest in our family and spent lots of summer holidays bossing around his young sister and their cousins. I even got him a t-shirt that said “The Boss’ on it! He organised all the family games and theatrical performances. They were called “Cousins Productions”, and the grownups were the audience.
John: Thanks a lot mum. Just for that I’m going to bring up that time you were crowdsurfing at my sister’s punk-rock show. I’m NOT the boss! Whenever I write a boy character mum always draws it as me, aged 12.
Joel: Did you model your characters in The Boss after someone you know?
Patrice: John knew what and who all the characters needed to be, and there’s bits of a lot of people in there. Once I’ve drawn them they become totally real to me, and have lives of their own.
John: Not really. At the writing stage I wanted a different personality for each character. Each character also had to be suited to their crime-solving job. Actually basing characters on real people and getting them to work well in a simple story is really tricky. That said, once they’ve been created for their purpose, the characters grow and change into their own personalities as I write and mum draws. But no, they weren’t based on anyone really.
(The Boss Volume 2 – The mystery of the disappearing dogs perhaps? We all certainly hope so)
Emily and Ailie: Are there going to be any more books about The Boss? – you seem to have set up the possibility with going to make a story about the missing dogs at the end of The Boss?
Patrice: The missing dogs story is a really fast-paced one. All we’ve got to do is find time to finish it. I love drawing dogs. They sometimes have such human expressions on their faces.
John: I have loads more stories for the Boss, and more of the class to introduce! Mum’s right- we need to find the time and convince someone to pay loads of money to print another book!
Daniel: Do you think there might be a series of Boss books?
Patrice: I certainly hope so!! There are so many cool adventures those schoolkids could have!
John: It would be cool. I just remembered that the bad guys in the book were supposed to be working for someone. We left it open for the possibility of an arch-villain behind it all. To be honest I only just remembered that now! I’d just want to write more of the class solving crimes.
Emily & Ailie: Would you think about doing another mystery series?
Patrice: We’re working on one right now! Check out the Phoenix Comic for further news about when it starts. The setting is going to be London, with lots of action.
John: Hey! Shhhh! I’m still writing my next mystery series. It’s a a bit more like a spy story, but still with lots of tailing people and kids doing cool things.
(Not the next series from John and Patrice, but Patrice Aggs does contribute “What Will Happen Next?” to The Phoenix Comic – issue 1 out in January!)
Thanks to the children at school for asking such great questions, thanks to John and Patrice Aggs for answering them, and thanks to all those involved at Random House and The DFC Library for setting these up, especially Lauren Bennett. More interviewing from the children at school in 2012!