Skip to main content


October 13, 2010

Andy Mulligan: 10 Random Things

Posted by jordana
andy mulligan.jpgAndy Mulligan, author of TRASH, tells 10 Random Things, like how not to cook fish simply, and what made him cry recently. You can follow him to his upcoming post at Also, read about the Twitter Scavenger Hunt that's happening, and feel free to check out, where Andy will be chatting with Buzzers all week.

What a treat it is to be the TeenReads blog to celebrate the publication of TRASH – thanks for taking an interest in the book and me, its author. I was invited to think up ten random autobiographical details, and the sheer randomness almost defeated me. Ten things, in no order of importance or consequence…


  1. I went to the Sydney Aquarium the other day, and saw a huge shark called the ‘Nurse Shark’. It had so many teeth it couldn’t close its mouth, and every tooth was double-serrated. It had demented eyes, and its lips were scowling – it really did look like a child-eater. But the sign said that in fact it was harmless, and ate only little fish – its ‘fearsome appearance’ meant that it had been hunted to virtual extinction by people quite sure it was about to do them a mischief. I thought that was very sad, and I’d like to write a story about some creature that’s hounded by people terrified of its appearance.
  2. I have very bad eyesight. When I have my eyes tested, opticians can’t believe that I really can’t see that great big letter on the first screen – on more than one occasion they’ve called in a friend, and shared their amazement. I was swimming in Sri Lanka last year and for some daft reason had my glasses on – when I take them off, all those beautiful colours get so blurred. But a wave came and snatched them from my face, so I hired all the little fisher-boys in the village and they spent the afternoon diving for me, hunting specs. Alas, they didn’t find them, so I had to grope my way back to Colombo and get a new pair made. I now travel with spares.
  3. I wish I could find a simple cookery book that would help me cook fish. Even the chefs whose introductions say, ‘Fish have to be cooked simply’ move on to construct recipes with drizzles of vinigrette and tarragon blended in a rue of capiscum and mustard-seed. The only fish I can do is salmon-steak, because you bung it in the oven with a knob of butter on its back.
  4. One of my favorite writers is Tove Jansson, who is most famous for the Moomins. She’s having a big re-vamp at the moment, and all her books are back in print in dazzling new covers. My own favourite is ‘Tales From Moominvalley’, in which she sets her innocent characters into the cruel, inexplicable world. They are scary, warm stories – I don’t know anyone else who has that touch.
  5. I have got into trouble now and then as a teacher for reading my pupils bits of dangerous books. Books can launch real assaults on readers, and that’s often why we love them: we want to be jerked out of our routines, and scared to death. The first book that did that for me, when I was ten, was ‘Marianne Dreams’, which is the freaky story of a girl who dreams about the pictures she draws - she is soon trying to control those dreams. She finds herself on desolate prairies, surrounded by rocks with eyeballs. She’s haunted by a sick boy she’s never met but knows exists, and I read this book unable to believe mere fiction could upset and excite me that way.
  6. My next door neighbour is ten years old, and I’ve kidnapped him for my next book. I can only create characters when I have faces to pin them on, so Joe is about to be fictionalized.
  7. I wish I was more patient. Patient people live longer and are nicer to be with. I want to join their club, but can’t find a way in. I am the twitching, impatient person wondering why the waiter is so slow, and why the queue isn’t moving, and why the phone isn’t being answered. If I ever have to phone the Barclaycard Customer Service-line again, I think it will be the end of me: I think my heart will give out.
  8. I have recently acquired the taste for Charles Dickens, and am now hovering up all the books he wrote. It’s like champagne, olives, avocadoes and late night radio debate-programs – you acquire these tastes at different stages of your life.
  9. My hero is the television playwright, Dennis Potter, famous for “Pennies from Heaven” and “The Singing Detective”. Nobody wrote better drama, and nobody was more terrifying to listen to. He had a way of clarifying the world, and reminding you of what was truly important. I return to his published interviews again and again, and he’s the only writer to whom I’ve made a pilgrimage.
  10. The last time I cried over a book was about a week ago: the new David Fickling publication, Half Brother – out soon. It’s about a fourteen year old boy whose family adopts a young chimp for scientific research. It touched things I didn’t think could be touched anymore. However, I fear I’m about to cry again as a friend has got me into ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer.

 --- Andy Mulligan