Author Showcase: Faiz Kermani on Space and Aliens
By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: January 6, 2010
Faiz Kermani: I grew up during the era of the NASA Apollo missions and have always loved space and science fiction. I guess that writing about aliens is some sort of strange offshoot of that childhood interest. It started with my first children’s book, My Alien Penfriend (www.myalienpenfriend.co.uk), and it’s just carried on from there!
I’m originally from the UK and I love the fun British sense of humor, so that heavily influences what ends up being written down on paper. Sometimes when I have shown my story drafts to adults they have been fairly critical of my more unusual and wacky ideas, but feedback from younger readers has always been much more positive. Children often seem to love all the weird stuff that the older readers reject!
TCBR: Of all the space creatures you have imagined, which is your favorite? Why?
Faiz Kermani: There are actually two of them – the qobit and the floob – and that’s why I chose them for the cover. In my book, they are the best of friends and always help each other out. Basically, the large qobit protects its small friend from predators, and in return the floob acts as a lookout for food. My wife told me early on that they were her favorites too. I suppose it’s the idea that they cooperate which makes them appealing – plus they are kind of funny looking!
TCBR: What kind of book is A First Guide to Space Creatures?
Faiz Kermani: I wanted it to be a light-hearted, easy going book, with plenty of color illustrations to make it visually attractive for those reading it. The book conjures up an imaginary universe inhabited by mysterious space creatures. These are described through the eyes of the fictional space diplomat, Ambassador Ticklydung – an alien who made it his life’s mission to protect space creatures and ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to see them in a more natural environment.
TCBR: Which age group would enjoy reading it?
Faiz Kermani: It’s hard to say. I’d like to think that there’s something in there for all imaginative readers. There are lots of color pictures for very younger readers and plenty of unusual “facts and information” in the text for older ones.
TCBR: Is there a particular message in the book that you hope readers will grasp?
Faiz Kermani: In a humorous and very general way, I wanted the book to highlight the importance of protecting our environment. When I started writing it I was living in Princeton, New Jersey, and we had a forest next to us. Despite mankind encroaching on their territory, it was good to see that the wildlife hadn’t been driven away. It did lead to some amusing incidents though. It was not unusual to find deer blocking the road, gophers and skunks on the footpath, and even raccoons hiding from the rain in the garbage cans!
TCBR: You create your own illustrations. We’d love to hear about the illustrative process. Which comes first for you: text or pictures?
Faiz Kermani: Actually, this is the first time I have done illustrations, but I think I’ve got the drawing bug now! It came about after doing a beginner’s art course while I was in the US, which gave me the confidence to have a go at doing my own illustrations. I wrote the text for the book first which gave me some basic details for my initial sketches. It took me around six months to work those drawings up into something I was happy with, but they could still only be classed as drafts. When I moved back to Europe, I asked a Swiss artist friend of mine, Marco Giollo (www.giollo.com), to improve my pictures. He tried a few ideas and turned them into actual paintings. He really brought the creatures to life – although thankfully only for the purposes of the book!
TCBR: Are you working on anything new? Should we expect to see more books with a similar theme?
Faiz Kermani: I have a number of half-finished book drafts lying around the house, but since writing children’s books is still just a hobby my productivity varies. I’m very good at starting new ideas, but unfortunately not so good at finishing them off! Apart from the writing you also need to devote some time to publicizing and marketing your books.
One of my next books will be on a similar space theme, but I also have a children’s story idea that will be completely different. I’m thinking of trying my hand at illustrating this new story idea, but I’ll need a lot of time. People can take a look at my website to see what I’m up to in the future (www.faizkermani.com).
My wife gives me a lot of help with the editing and is very constructive with her suggestions. As she is French she also helps me publish translated versions of my books. I now live in France so I want to make more effort on that front.
TCBR: Throughout your published career, which one experience stands out to you as the most memorable?
Faiz Kermani: A few years ago, when I lived in London, UK, I was invited by a local school to talk about my first book, My Alien Penfriend, to children in different age groups. The response I got from them was very enthusiastic and I had a great time chatting to them. A few days later I got a large pack of thank you letters from them, which really encouraged me to keep writing. Since then I’ve always enjoyed author events, as you get to interact with readers and get great feedback.
TCBR: Which children’s book or children’s book author do you feel has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?
Faiz Kermani: I’ve always been a big fan of Roald Dahl (www.roalddahl.com). He had a very vivid imagination and was unbelievably productive. For me, his best book is James and the Giant Peach. It’s very funny and has great characters. I still remember my teacher reading it to us in class when I was very young and I have re-read the book countless times.
TCBR: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I’m very interested in promoting literacy projects through my books. I have been involved in a number of author educational initiatives with schools and libraries, both in the US and Europe. If any teachers are interested in using my books with their classes, please get in touch via my website (www.faizkermani.com). I would be more than happy to hear about any ideas to encourage children to read and write.
TCBR: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
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