THE Isle of Wight Story Festival is just around the corner, and in the build-up to the big occasion, we got a chance to speak to one of its authors.

The County Press picked the brains of the wonderful comedian-come-author Alasdair Beckett-King, who tells us he’s excited to visit our shores for the very first time.

Regrettably, it will be something of a flying visit, and as such, he won’t get a chance to sample all the best the Isle of Wight has to offer.

At the festival, Alasdair will be focussing on his children's book series Montgomery Bonbon.

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“I’m a big fan of islands, as I’m a big fan of murder mysteries, and an island is the ideal place for a murder mystery to happen,” said Alasdair.

“I’m not saying I’m hoping there will be a murder mystery there, but I am excited!”

What convinced you to join the IW Story Festival roster this year?

“Well, I became an author for the first-time last year,” said Alasdair.

“I published two books and have a third coming out this year.

“Having been a stand-up comedian for several years now, I started developing a show of sorts; a guide to being a detective as I see it, for kids and their parents, which hopefully entertains both.

Isle of Wight County Press: Alasdair Beckett-King's books, Murder at the Museum and Death at the Lighthouse.Alasdair Beckett-King's books, Murder at the Museum and Death at the Lighthouse. (Image: Contributed.)

“It’s not just me pitching my books to them. What appeals to me about mystery fiction is the puzzle element of it; there’s an element of a game to it.

“I’ve written for a number of puzzle adventure games, which is very much the same thing; story-based, but interactive.

“I was obsessed with those kinds of games growing up, and they’re big inspirations behind this book series.

“What’s fun is you get to inject personality and character into them, and you get to be a little bit satirical and make a few observations about society while you do it."

What other inspirations are there behind this series?

“My introduction to the subgenre of impossible crimes was Jonathan Creek on the telly in the ‘90s, which I think was a very good series.

“It introduced me to the idea of crimes that seem completely baffling. As well as working out people’s motives, there’s some element of the impossible.

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“In the Montgomery Bonbon books, there’s always that same element that seems impossible, or supernatural, or just doesn’t make sense.

“I’ve always enjoyed that part of it.”

Why write a children’s murder mystery book?

“Good question. The first thing I asked Walker Books was: are you allowed to have murders in children’s books?

“Turns out you are, much to my relief.

“The children’s whodunit is now an established sub-genre of literature.

“When I was a kid, that wasn’t really a thing. Mysteries were all about privately educated kids catching smugglers. Nobody ever got murdered.

“I do think children have a morbid sense of humour and appreciate the morbid and the gothic.

“The purpose of the book is not to scare them. There’s something cosy about a murder mystery; something reassuring about the knowledge that the crime is going to be resolved, however creepy it might be.

“The fact that there’s a death in it is to add pepper to the story, and I’m quite careful about the way people can die; the terminology.

“It’s not a big police procedural, with fingerprints and all the rest of it. It’s more about the logic of who could have been where at what time, and why would this person have wanted that.

“One of the nice things about writing for kids rather than doing stand-up is, you only get positive feedback for the most part.

“I know that people do the voices with their kids and discuss theories; I’ve seen teachers with their class polling their kids on who they think the murderer was before they get to the end.

“It’s so sweet. It’s really nice hearing kids read out loud and have a laugh.”

What inspired you to start putting pen to paper?

“It happened during lockdown.

“Whatever situation you were in, it was weird, and being a stand-up comedian became completely not allowed for a really long time.

“Luckily, I could draw upon years of making little videos and animations, and one of them I did was an interactive murder mystery.

“I started drinking coffee during lockdown, which was a mistake! It was a very anxious, very wired lockdown.

“My editor saw that whodunit, and I already had the idea for the character of Bonnie Montgomery.”

What’s it like being a writer?

“I’ve really, really enjoyed writing the books, but I have to say, it’s a lot of work!

“I never used to have any sympathy for writers going: Oh, woe is me, 1,000 words today, I’m bereft of inspiration!

“I used to think: C’mon, it can’t be that hard. It’s not like you’re working in a mine.

“But then I became a writer and started doing exactly that.

“It made me realise how needy comedians are. Every joke, you check in to see if the audience enjoyed it.

“The nerve you need to do an entire book, THEN give it to people to see if they like it.

“It’s really nerve wracking, and enormously relieving when you learn people do actually like it.”

What would be your top tip for aspiring writers?

“My tip for anyone who wants to write or doing anything creative – and I’m not sure this is good advice – but is to keep going, keep making things and coming up with ideas. Stick at it.”

Are there any children’s books from your childhood that live long in the memory?

“Yes, absolutely.

“One of the funniest series of books I remember from when I was a kid was Pongwiffy, by Kaye Umansky.

“I always remember reading them in the bath and dropping them in the water so many times because I thought it was so funny and hilarious when I was ten/eleven.

“It’s a shame from my point of view that those books aren’t in kids’ libraries now, but they still had their impact.

“I of course enjoyed the classics as well, like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Is there anyone else on the IW Story Festival roster you’re excited to see yourself?

“I’m afraid it’s such a flying visit, I’m not going to have any time to go to anybody else’s talks.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be staying on the Island, unless a situation of mystery and intrigue arises, and I’m invited to solve it.

“But if I could stay, I would really like to see Kieran Larwood. I’m a big fan of fantasy literature.”

Would you consider yourself a little bit of a nerd?

“Oh, how dare you, I – yes, probably, yes. I think that’s fair.

“I think there are good and bad things about nerd culture.

“I get very irritated when nerd culture starts to get very elitist and competitive.

“I like as broad a church of nerdery as possible.”

What else do you have in the pipeline?

“I’m going on tour later this year.

“The stand-up comedy tour is not coming to the Isle of Wight, sadly, but it will be in Southampton.

“It’ll be my second tour of the UK.

“I’m really keen to get back on stage and start writing jokes, because I’ve been sat in front of a computer for so long.

“I’ve been starved of human contact!

“I’d love to do stand-up on the Isle of Wight sometime.”