Shane Hegarty

Shane Hegarty is author of Darkmouth, the first in a fantasy adventure series published by HarperCollins. A former journalist at the Irish Times, he lives with his wife and four children in Dublin.

Q. What books did you read when you were a child?
A. I loved The Three Investigators, a Hollywood-set series about young detectives. There are now 94 books in the series, many of them only in German. I read about 15 of them - none of them in German.

Q. If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A. Peter Pan. I have a recurring dream that I can fly and am always so disappointed when I wake and am stuck firmly on earth. Plus, never growing up is an appealing thought for those of us who don't want to.

Q. What is the best thing about reading?
A. It is amazing that mere words, patterns on a page, can grip you so much that you'll find yourself reading a book even while walking somewhere. I once tripped up someone while walking with my nose in a Roddy Doyle book.

Q. What is your all time favourite book?
A. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which is about a human adrift in a bizarre universe, and the strange aliens and concepts he encounters. Some of the jokes have aged a little bit, but it is still hilarious, profound and Adams's imagination is staggering. It will never be bettered.

Q. Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A. Creating stories with them. They might be stories about the day they just had, what's happened at school, what they did over the weekend. They don't have to be written down, and they don't have to be fiction. We all tell stories every day - in gossip, in jokes, in memories - and doing so with your kids is never boring and expands parents’ worlds as well as their children's.

Q. How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A. My mam and dad made sure I was never, ever short of a book (and if I finished one, I could always grab my sister's). They were always helping me broaden my reading through gentle guidance rather than forcing me to read something I didn't want to.

Through that I discovered a love of words and of writing at an early age. I remember the day it happened, when I wrote a rhyme in school at age 7 and thought "this is what I want to do with my life". My parents later encouraged and supported me on a winding path to journalism which ultimately led to becoming an author.

Q. How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A. I have four kids, and we've found that if you read with them from early on, their enjoyment of books is such a natural thing to them. But I can see with my eldest (a 9-year-old boy) that when he doesn't want to read a particular book or author, then you have to respect that rather than push it on him in a way you might do with vegetables at the dinner table. If he wants to reread a book, even if it's for the fifth time, then so be it. That's part of a child's development.

With younger children, not yet independent readers, I've found that you can never go wrong reading them an Oliver Jeffers book. He is a brilliant artist and writer, and his books are always wise, funny, full of personality and a joy for kids and adults alike.

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