We sat down for a chat...with Jon Walter
Close To the Wind, Jon Walter's debut and launch title for the newly independent David Fickling Books, publishes today. It's a gorgeous children's read and Jon Walter took some time out to answer our questions. I think he calls me old!
WSD: In the front of Close To the Wind (in the proof copy I read), there's a quote from you:
'I began to think of this story by wondering what I might try and save if I were about to lose everything. I packed Malik’s bag for him, making sure he had something useful, something of value and a spare pair of trousers – only to discover he needed something else entirely.’ – Jon WalterAt what point in crafting the story did you discover that Malik needed something else entirely?
Jon Walter: Pretty much as soon as he opened his mouth and started talking.I suppose what I’m saying in that quote is that I tend to begin writing from ideas rather than characters and the idea was to put a boy and his grandfather into a really desperate situation where they had to leave everything in a hurry.
I don’t do any work on my characters before I begin to write, so I don’t know who they are. I like to get them talking and see what happens and what happened here was that Malik made it very clear he wanted to be in a safe place with all of his family and nothing else mattered.
WSD: Have you ever been in a situation where you've prepared yourself for the wrong thing?Jon Walter: I’m sure the answer is yes but I can’t think of a single thing. Perhaps it was so traumatic it’s been wiped from my memory.
WSD: What sort of photo-journalist are you?Jon Walter: I’m not a photo journalist any longer but I used to work for magazines and organisations providing services in the UK, so education, police, healthcare, all that kind of thing. Sometimes it could be very exciting, like covering demonstrations or being at No.10 for a general election and it was always a privilege to see how people live and work.
WSD: Have you ever travelled on a ship?Jon Walter: Of course! Hasn’t everyone?
I don’t really have a big interest in ships and I don’t especially like the idea of going on a cruise. I even had to research basic nautical terms like ‘stern’ and ‘prow’ to make sure I got them right.
Having said that, ships which go to far flung places do excite me. I once spent a couple of days travelling in the arctic circle on the Norwegian Hurtigruten line and Scottish CalMac ferries always make me go weak at the knees.
I think there’s something very literary about travelling by sea. In Jungian analysis, the sea represents the unconscious mind, so perhaps that’s why.
WSD: You sold records? What were the best and worst bits of that?Jon Walter: Vinyl’s making a bit of a comeback isn’t it? There’s something very satisfying about flicking through stacks of albums, hoping for something rare to pop up. Best and worst bits were probably all contained in the same situation when a customer came in and couldn’t remember the name of a record. You’d always smile and ask them to sing it for you.
WSD: And did you ever sell a copy of Rodriguez's Cold Fact?Jon Walter: Twenty years too late for me but I like your style.
Read M's review of Close to the Wind.