This month we speak to the duo behind the amazingly disgusting Fleabag Monkeyface series – Knife & Packer. We ask them about the good, the bad and the downright grubby – from alien encounters and gross-out powers, to the super stinky books themselves!
1. How did you initially meet each other?
We first met in 1993 and it sounds a lot more complicated than it was! Knife had a flatmate who was the brother of a friend of Packer’s. Knife was a cartoonist and Packer was writing comedy. We soon realised we had the same sense of humour and decided to have a go collaborating on some ideas together. Sixteen years and 20 children’s books later we’re still working together!
2. Where did you get your nickname ‘Knife and Packer?’
Knife’s real name is Duncan McCoshan. There is a famous Frank Sinatra song called ‘Mac The Knife’ and the nickname comes from the song. Packer’s name is Packer – although if anyone has any suggestions for a cool nickname please let us know!
3. Which character are you both most like?
We’re a bit like Gerald and Gene – when one of us has a stupid idea the other one seems to think it’s a good idea. We would love to have a best friend like Fleabag – he may be a bit smelly and disgusting, but things are never boring when he’s around.
4. What gave you the inspiration for ‘Invasion of the Grubby Snatchers?’
We both love sci-fi and were really excited to write a sci-fi plot for a Fleabag book. We thought that the worst possible invaders from another planet would come not to rule the world or destroy but to tidy it up. And forget traditional lasers, they're equipped with a "Power Shower Beam" and "Polish On Sight Super Shot" – so the going gets pretty tough for the Gross Out team!
5. The Kleanonz are a race of aliens that feature in your new book. What would you both do were you to meet an alien?
Well first of all we would probably scream and hide behind the sofa! But if they seemed friendly we would love to have a chat with them. We would read them ‘Invasion Of The Grubby Snatchers’ and see if they had any ideas for a follow-up book.
6. How do you go about writing books together? Is there a routine that you follow?
Working together for so many years we do have a routine. After discussing the basic idea Packer starts working up the storyline while Knife starts sketching possible characters. Throughout we meet frequently to discuss our progress. When we are happy with the storyline and how the main characters are going to look then it's a question of knuckling down to writing and illustrating!
7. What do you like best about writing books?
We love coming up with mad characters like Fleabag and putting him into even madder situations. We still do quite a lot of work for newspapers and magazines but only in books can you let your imagination run riot.
8. Do you like meeting your readers?
Yes! We have done hundreds of events at schools, libraries, festivals and bookshops all over the country and it’s great. Not only is it fantastic to meet people who enjoy what we’re doing, but we often get inspiration for new stories.
9. If you each had a gross-out power like Fleabag Monkeyface, what would it be?
Knife would like ‘Banana Breath’ – he wouldn't need to rub out – he could just breathe on the page and the pencil lines would vaporise! And he would always get a seat on a bus!
Packer would like to be able to ‘Turbo Sneeze’ – it would be great if he ever got stuck in the toilet and couldn't get the door open!
10. What is it about the Fleabag Monkeyface books that makes you both laugh the most?
We find the villains hilarious. From Professor Baad to King Pong and from The Fairy Queen Gwendolina to Commander Skrubbupp they are always completely ridiculously villainous. And best of all they always come to stupidly sticky endings...