The author was interviewed by Scholastic students.
Where do your ideas come from?
For inspiration, I take my dog, “Baby Mac,” (a white Scottie), out for walks and look around. Sometimes, I get ideas from dreams. Often, my stories are based on adventures that I, or my friends, have actually lived.
Why did you write Redwall?
I wrote Redwall for the children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, where I used to deliver milk.
How did you get published?
A man named Alan Durband was my teacher when I was in school. He read Redwall, and showed it to a publisher without telling me. This event led to a contract for the first five books in the Redwall series. (If you look, you'll find a dedication to Alan in the front of The Bellmaker.)
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
When I was young, I was given an assignment to write a story about animals. I wrote about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth. The story was so good that my teacher could not believe that a ten-year-old could write that well. I was even punished because my teacher thought I'd lied about writing it! I had always loved to write, but it was then that I realized that I had a talent for it.
Did you have any teachers who inspired you?
My favorite teacher was Mr. Austin Thomas. He was a big man and a captain in World War II. He came to school on a big bicycle with a haversack on his back. He was a man's man, always fair. I was fourteen when Mr. Thomas introduced the class to poetry and to Greek literature. (Because of him, I saved seven shillings and sixpence to buy The Iliad and The Odyssey at a dusty used bookshop.)
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy walking my dog, and completing crossword puzzles. When there's time I read the works of Mario Puzo, Damon Runyon, Richard Condon, Larry McMurtry, and P.G. Wodehouse.
Are your characters based on real persons or are they entirely from your imagination?
Almost all my characters are people or amalgamations of people I have met in my life. I am a people watcher and I have a very good memory. So watch out if I ever meet you. You might end up as a squirrel or a mouse or a weasel!
Are any of the characters based on you, and if so, which one?
I am Gonff, Prince of mouse thieves.
How long does it take to write one of your books?
I spend about four months of the year writing each book.
How big is the actual building of Redwall Abbey supposed to be? Does it actually surround the pond and the orchard, or are those things only outside of the abbey in Mossflower Wood?
The abbey pond is inside the walls, but outside the abbey buildings. It is as big or as small as you want it to be in your imagination!
When can we expect to see the Redwall movie in the U.S.?
1999 is the projected date (spring hopefully).
How did you get the idea to write about mice
I like mice! Mice are my heroes because, like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits.
How old are you?
I was born in Liverpool, England on June 15, 1939.
Is your last name French?
Yes, my father was half French. We anglicize the pronunciation to JAKES.
What kind of music do you like?
I love many kinds of music, and couldn't imagine life without it, but my favorite is Italian grand opera.
What advice do you have for kids who are interested in becoming writers?
Look around you. Absorb and remember, use the things you know well and adapt them to your work. Above all, paint the picture with words.