Author Interview - Frank Woodley, comedian and author of the new Kizmet series

PP:  Can you tell us about your new series of kids' books?

FW:  They're based around the adventures of a girl called Kizmet who's a courageous super-sleuth.  She's so smart when she sees a set a footprints information pours out of them like a wikipedia page.  She can tell how old the person was - whether they were walking or running.  I wouldn't be surprised if she could tell if they had freckles or not.  Her dad is a bumbling detective who would love to be here but just accidentally handcuffed himself to a departing helicopter.  The stories are narrated by Gretchen who is Kizmet's best friend.  Oh, and she's a currawong.
"the stories are narrated by Gretchen...... Oh, and she's a currawong."

PP:  Most Mums and Dads would know you from your comedy skits and appearances on TV.  How did it come about that you started writing children's books?

FW:  I just follow my nose.  It's one of the reasons I would never consider rhinoplasty.  My ample nose makes it easier to follow.  I've done lots and lots of narrative comedy, so it doesn't feel very different.  I hadn't written mystery stories before but I think they're quite similar to comedy.  Comedy and Mystery are both about creating tension and then offering a surprise resolution.

PP:  The illustrations in the books are fantastic.  And they are done by none other than... well... you!  Did you enjoy illustrating the series?

FW:  It was really enjoyable.  Drawing is a very introverted activity, and I spend a fair bit of my time showing off so it was a really nice change.
"Comedy and Mystery are both about creating tension and then offering a surprise resolution."

PP:  Gretchen is a bird, but is also the narrator of the Kizmet series.  Why did you choose for Gretchen to be a Currawong, and not a Rainbow Lorrikeet (so pretty) or owl (so wise) for instance?

FW:  A friend of mine, James, lives in the country and a currawong was once taunting his little Jack Russell by dropping leaves on it from the safety of a high branch.  James threw a ball to scare it away and accidentally hit it.  The next day he found an enormous birdpoo in the middle of his windscreen and he's convinced it was the currawong.  Ever since I heard that story I've had this sense that currawongs are very intelligent and cheeky.

PP:  Kizmet's Dad, Spencer Papanicillo is not a very good detective, but he provides plenty of laughs with his bumbling behaviour.  Where (or from whom) did you take your inspiration from when you created him?

FW:  He's pretty much cut from the cloth of Inspector Clouseau and Maxwell Smart, but I must say there's a fair bit of me in him too.  Just last weekend I was trying to run an extension cord across the roof of my garage and I cable tied my thumb to a pipe and was stuck there for an hour and a half 'til my wife got home and could pass me some scissors.
"I must say there's a fair bit of me in him too."

PP:  Kismet is super smart, incredibly agile and is a terrific detective, but she must miss a lot of school going away on all these crazy adventures.  How does she manage to keep on top of everything?

FW:  I'll have to ask her about that.  I think she may be home schooled.  Which in her case almost certainly means that she reads all sorts of books, and watches all sorts of videos and online stuff, and talks to everyone she meets and listens with fascination to what they have to say.... and Spencer watches it all happen in bewildered amazement.

PP:  We've followed the team across the globe chasing down kooky (and hairy) scientists and nefarious musicians so far - can you tell us what you have in store for Kizmet, Gretchen and Detective Spencer next?  Just a hint or little detail.....

FW:  I'm not sure.  Maybe the strange appearance of a person claiming to be from the middle ages.  Or a circus that has it's big top stolen in the middle of a show.  Or a mugger who gets people to give him their wallets by just asking really nicely.  Or a patient who gets an experimental stem-cell treatment for a head injury and becomes a super intelligent criminal.  Or a virus that is taking away the voices of all newsreaders.  Or a boy who every few weeks finds an envelope with a thousand dollars in it and a note requesting him not to play soccer with his local under eleven's soccer team that week.  Or... I 'm just rambling really, I haven't even started yet.

PP:  What was your favourite book as a child?

FW:  It would have to be the Asterix comics.  The gall of that little Gaul.

PP:  And lastly, what sort of books do you think Kizmet likes to read?  And for that matter, Detective Spencer and, dare I ask Gretchen?

FW:  Kizmet loves mainly non-fiction.  All sorts of stuff that gives you new ways of looking at things.  She loved Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks and Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson.  Spencer reads Jackie Collins romances but puts them in a Wilbur Smith dustjacket.  And Gretchen never learned to read, but she enjoys watching Total Wipeout and having her suspicions that currawongs are more intelligent than humans confirmed.

Kizmet and the Case of the Smashed Violin $10
Kizmet and the Case of the Tassie Tiger $10
are both out now.