I started writing because … I like stories. Who doesn’t? The real question is why didn’t I stop writing, or stop drawing for that matter. Basically, I found a way to keep doing it and still pay the rent: make books that people can buy!
The best part of writing Cicada was … Cutting it back. It was originally a much longer, overwrought story about workplace bullying, but by reducing to the voice of a simple insect, it became much more open to interpretation.
Cicada was inspired by … I once saw a single flowering plant in the window of a huge, sterile-looking office block in Berlin. For some reason I imagined a bug working there among humans, and continued to think about this idea on and off for the next ten years. Along the way I became interested in the 17-year life cycle of certain cicadas, and also enjoyed watching office-based sitcoms. These three unlikely influences seemed to naturally fold into each other.
When I’m not writing I … am probably painting!
My favourite place to curl up with a book is … With my wife and daughter (4). Interestingly, this family time also counts as research, since almost all of the books are, naturally, picture books. I’ll be examining the imprint page, layout and production choices once everyone else has dropped off.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the founder and director of Sweatshop, a literacy movement in Western Sydney devoted to empowering culturally and linguistically diverse artists through creative writing. You will want to spend more that 5 minutes with Michael.