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A nice article on Ahmet and his book. :)

We talk to author Ahmet Zappa
Ahmet Zappa is now working on his second book, a follow-up to The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless.
The 32-year-old left school at 12 because of his severe dyslexia and among the jobs has done has been a game-show host!

His dad, Frank Zappa, was a famous musician until he died and his family are kind of famous for having unusual names. He has sisters called Moon Unit and Diva and a brother called Dweezil!

He talked to Newsround from his Californian home.

How did you get the idea for the book?
Originally the book was just going to be full of recipes to defend yourself against monsters but my editor forced me to write a story to go with it.

I've always wanted to have a book published - it was a dream of mine, but the thought of actually writing a book made me feel really sick. But then, miracle of miracles, the concept popped into my head, the idea of a little girl's journal and a quest.

The photos and all the visual places started growing in my head and the name McFearless popped up. I started by writing a list of all the things she could do and once I had finished the first chapter I was up and running and couldn't believe that I was writing it. It was very strange.

How long did it take you to write?
I guess it took me years because I have to include all the years when I was painting pictures of all those monsters. I never used any of them in the book but I painted dozens and dozens of them.

Is it true that you dropped out of school at 12 because of your dyslexia?

At 12 I dropped out of school but I had lost interest in it at a much earlier age. For me, school was very very stressful.

I definitely have managed to overcome dyslexia now to become a fully functional human being but things were a lot more difficult when I was younger. People didn't really know what dyslexia was and it wasn't wildly accepted that people could learn things differently at the school I was in.

I wasn't in the same class as my friends and so school really sucked. I didn't read at all until I was 12. I just couldn't. It was too frustrating.

If I saw a single word I could pronounce it but in paragraphs I would drop out bits and get criticised and embarrassed by it. Even now, the thought of reading aloud makes my palms sweat.

The weird thing is that I used to host TV shows so I would have to be able to remember things as a compensation for not being able to read. I got them to write bullet points on a prompter to trigger my memory because I couldn't read whole paragraphs.

Then when I wrote this book, I realised that people might want me to read passages from it. I won't be able to. I will be able to read something similar to what's written down but not to say it word for word.

Was it difficult for you to write the book because of your dyslexia?
It was a slow process, but it was healing for me. My brain works faster than my eyes so I have to get into a rhythm. I have to get into a comfortable pace.
I really never thought it would end up in a book. I thought people would buy the images but I never counted on people liking the words.

The book has just come out over here in the USA and it was an amazing experience seeing it on the shelf. It's the last book on the shelf because of my surname Zappa and it's at dog-sniffing level!

I went and bought one and there was a little girl who was reading it in the bookstore and she told me she really liked it. I was frozen, not even steel wool could have wiped the smile of my face!

It says in your book that you wrote "to make children afraid" - is that right? What I meant by that is that it's OK to be afraid and have the confidence to overcome the feeling. You can be afraid and talk about how scary it is but it's silly at the same time.

Which of the monsters is your favourite?
I kind of see the Howleewoof as myself, for sure. He's a werewolf with halitosis (bad breath) and a love of butchery and making outfits out of his meals! If you say it fast it sounds like Hollywood too!

Have you tested out any of the monster-fighting recipes?
I have made some of them. I tried to use some of the kitchen ingredients that are as common as possible, well in an American kitchen.

It does say to get permission from your parents before making them but I can certainly see kids taking their Mom's favourite shoes and making the recipes. It's great because there's a scary monster and then there's the recipe to overcome it.

Have you got any plans for more books?
I plotted out the story of two books - the first one ends in a cliff-hanger and the third book is prequelly, which is very Howleewoof or Hollywood as you might say! Tim Firth - who's the cats' pyjamas - is writing the screenplay of my first book for it to be made into a Disney film.

What did you do before you were an author?
When I was little and ditching school I wanted to be a game-show host, a stunt-man or an architect.

Well, I was a game-show host for a while on a game of chance show. But I am really enjoying being an author.

I grew up in a musical family and with music I didn't care if people liked it or not if I loved it.

And this is something I can apply to the book. I'm really proud that I've finished it and then to be rewarded for writing it is the best, best, best ever feeling.


Published: 2006/08/03 15:01:49 GMT

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Its out today. Its good. Go buy it. :)


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