Scoop had the opportunity to interview renowned children’s author, Jill Murphy.
The Worst Witch, based on the books by Jill Murphy, is heading to the Vaudeville Theatre from 24 July 2019. Mildred Hubble is casting her spell on the West End this summer with the action-packed adventures of Miss Cackle’s Academy! It is a great show for all the family to see over the summer holidays!
1) What inspired you to write and illustrate children’s books?
I was still at school when I started writing The Worst Witch. I was at school in the 1960s and there were lots of stories about boarding schools, so I was trying to think up an idea for a school story which was different to all the others. Our uniform was exactly like Miss Cackle’s Academy, but with a rounded hat. I had some friends to tea and my mum laughed at us and said that we looked like the three witches. That was my light-bulb moment! The chemistry lab could be the potion lab! They could arrive at school on brooms instead of bicycles — with cats sitting on the end! If you had an argument with somebody, you could turn them into a pig! — and of course they would be wearing our uniform, but with a pointy hat! Once I’d had the idea, the story just wrote itself.
2) How long does it take you to complete a book?
Six months for the writing and six months for the illustrations. The colour illustrations for my picture books are done with coloured pencil and if it’s a complicated picture with light effects it can take three weeks to finish.
3) Where did the idea for The Worst Witch come from?
The characters in The Worst Witch are all based on my schooldays. Mildred is based on myself when I had plaits so long that I could sit on them! Maud is based on my little best friend, Elizabeth, and all the teachers (both nice and nasty) are based on my schoolteachers. It was a very strict school and I began to think up the story of Mildred when I was still at the school, aged fourteen. I used to draw little pictures of Mildred, with her pointy witch’s hat, all over my school exercise book. I made them into witches because I thought it would add a touch of magic to the story.
4) How long have you been writing books?
I was six when I started writing my own books, put together with a stapler and I haven’t stopped writing and drawing since then. I’ve still got all those early books and they are proper chapter books, with lots of illustrations. Sometimes, I even wrote my own newspapers, with a review section announcing a new book by Jill Murphy!
5) What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t writing books?
I like going to the beach with my dog Elsie. I also like drawing for fun and I am rather good at knitting.
6) What authors have inspired you?
C S Lewis, who wrote the wonderful Narnia stories [and his illustrator Pauline Baynes] and Frances Hodgson-Burnett who wrote The Secret Garden. I used to imagine my own book on a shelf between The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and The Secret Garden. The Worst Witch is sitting there right now, just as I dreamed all those years ago.
7) What are some of your favourite books from your childhood?
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C S Lewis and the Secret 7 series by Enid Blyton. I also liked comics and used to read lots of those.