Q&A with Michael Wagner!!


Hi Michael and welcome to Just So Stories!

  1. Let’s jump right in here and start with So Wrong! You mentioned that as reluctant readers as kids you and Wayne Bright, your illustrator, wanted to create a book that would entice children to read. Tell us about its inception and inspiration please.

So Wrong started with a bunch of scribbled ideas in my old journals. I’d noted down all sorts of weird and silly thoughts that weren’t quite convertible into books or even short stories. They were things like one-off cartoon ideas, satirical advertisements, parodies of picture books, etc. They couldn’t be turned into books, but I found them funny. As I wondered what to do with them, it occurred to me that they could be assembled into a book of random, misfit bits and pieces. And the one common thread through all of the ideas, it seemed to me, was their wrongness.

  1. So what did ‘switch’ you on to reading eventually?

When I was 19, would you believe, my girlfriend was (sorry this is going to sound so clichéd) a librarian. Like any good librarian, she suggested a novel to me (Monkey Grip), and to my surprise, I liked it. I didn’t realise books could be so modern and edgy and cool. That’s what started me reading as an adult and I’ve been fairly voracious ever since. The importance of librarians can’t be overstated – everyone should date one, at least once in their life.  J

{Well What can I say except to agree!!!}

  1. One of my favourite questions for authors (or illustrators!) is what does your work space look like? Do you have a stylishly elegant office or a quirky jumble-filled playspace or…? (photos are always delicious!)

Stylish? No. Elegant? OMG, that’s actually hilarious. Jumble-filled? We’re getting closer. Playspace? Yeah … yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it. I don’t have a mini putting green or one of those micro sandpits with a rake in it, but I do play there. It’s really just a boring office-like space – desk, computer, printer, bookshelves, inexpensive chair from Officeworks – but it’s a safe, cosy place for me to imaginatively play and to play loud music. One of my ideas of a dream job is one where you can work and listen to loud music at the same time. So I need big speakers.

Here’s a photo of the space with labels explaining a few things. Sorry it’s so uninspiring.


  1. Your degree was in Media Studies – was it your intention to become a fabulously successful children’s writer then?

Not at all. After Media Studies, I worked as a radio broadcaster for the ABC for 10 years. I thought radio was my career. But I actually got bored with it and a few years after leaving the ABC, an old friend asked me if I’d like to try writing a couple of educational books of fiction for her new publishing company. I wrote the two books in a day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon (they were only 500 and 800 words) –and they were both published. It all seemed so easy. If only I’d known that 16 years later I’d be writing a 1,000 word book and still be unhappy with it after 67 drafts.

  1. Can you tell us more about Billy Goat Books and its genesis?

Billy Goat Books is where I go when I want to create something for myself. It’s where I create a book without anticipating anyone’s reaction but my own. Sometimes you really need to write that way – with total freedom. And the two books I’ve created so far have sold well, so it’s working both creatively and financially. A rare combination. J

  1. What’s the downtime look like for you? What are the things that float your boat when you are not working?

I love sport and music and great TV and cinema (although I’ve lost faith in films a bit lately). And I also love to travel, so I need all the downtime I can get.


  1. What would you consider the highlight/s of your children’s writer career thus far?

The success of the Maxx Rumble books came early and really set me up as an author almost instantly. And I’m super proud of Pig Dude and So Wrong, because I made them myself (with the help of two incredible illustrators) and reading them provides two of the highlights of my school visits.

  1. This is a double whammy really – what’s coming up next for your kidlet fans and will there be a follow up to So Wrong?

So Wrong Two is already in development and it will continue to stumble all over that line of good taste. I’m not sure why, but humour seems most exciting when it’s right up against the ‘unacceptable’ edge, so that’s where we’re heading with the next book too. And there are two or maybe three picture books coming next year as well two, depending on current contract negotiations.

  1. Who are your personal favourites when it comes to authors – for adults and/or kids? And what are you reading at the moment?

For kids: Roald Dahl, Paul Jennings, Andy Griffiths, Dav Pilkey, Anthony Horowitz, Dr Seuss.

For adults: Fredrik Backman, Dave Eggers, Ian McEwan, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare.

And what I’m reading right now are: Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel and The Naughtiest Girl in School by Enid Blyton.

  1. What would you like your epitaph to be?

He wasn’t so wrong after all.


Michael, thanks for giving up your time. So Wrong has been a huge hit with some very special boys I met at a Positive Learning Centre – it gave me great pleasure to be able to pass it on to them!


That’s so wonderful, Sue. I’m really thrilled to hear it. And thanks again for your wonderful review.

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