Would You Rather: an interview with Ian Probert

download (1)Good afternoon on this rather dry and fine afternoon from Stoke-On-Trent. It might interest you to know that it was the two year anniversary of my blogging history yesterday. However being incredibly busy yesterday I didn’t have any time to do a nice post for you; so this year we’re going to celebrate it on the 19th of February which is rather fitting because I am sharing with you a wonderful guest post Q+A from an author quite close to my heart; Ian Probert. I’ll provide links but earlier this year I reviewed the book Johnny Nothing and was a little hooked. Since then I’ve had the utter joy of helping a little to promote this wonderful book.

Now in true rotten style we decide to forgo the stereotypical Q+A questions and bring you something a little more entertaining. A would you rather set of questions; this is something me and my sister love playing although normally slightly less horrible then these questions. If you haven’t heard of it (I’m sure you have) basically it makes you choose between two equally rotten outcomes and then you explain why. These answers are better than I could have expected; before we launch into them make sure you check out all the links below especially the competitions (I shouldn’t say this because I’d quite like to get my hands on a signed print of the book illustrations because they are rather wonderful) however go and check everything out and let me know what you think of the book! Enough of me rambling; enjoy!

1) Would you rather: Have nacho cheese dust constantly attached to your finger tips or sweat mayonnaise?

A tricky opener. Let’s see… Nacho cheese dust could be good – obviously it would get in your eyes and ears but that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. It would certainly add a little much needed zest to one’s nasal secretions when attending nasal secretion tasting parties. And Lords knows what effect it would have one’s butt hole.

To be able to sweat mayonnaise would also not be too bad. Would that be low fat mayonnaise or high cal? I can think of no finer thing than to be able to go for a long run and then return covered in gloopy mayonnaise. It could do wonders for my sex life as well. Mayonnaise it has to be.

2) Would you rather: Have constant hiccups or a constantly blocked nose?

Freaky. How could you possibly know that for the last year I have been suffering from a blocked right nostril? I won’t bore you with my long and sorry tale but suffice to say I was eventually diagnosed with having a polyp the size of my thumb growing in my nasal cavity. Unpleasant? You bet. A really, really horrible thing to live with. The surgeon’s knife seems the only way out for me, which is a real drag.

Hiccups? Well I once saw a documentary about somebody who had been producing horrible annoying noises out of their mouth for over thirty years. I think it was called ‘The David Cameron Story’. Only joking. Not really. This guy was so unhappy he tried to commit…Hic… Suicide… Hic…It’s… Hic… Reallly… Hic… Annoying… Hic… Isn’t… Hic… It?

Suicide, sorry, hiccups win.

3) Would you rather: Have fingers are long as your legs or legs as long as your fingers?

Well having stubby little legs is a little too close to home to me. I belong to the Thalidomide generation of the 1960s. When I was growing up it was not at all unusual to have several poor sufferers of this terrible condition in the classroom. Among those I remember was a very pretty girl whose name escapes me who had terribly malformed hands. There was also another boy I remember, whose name, in a cruel twist of irony, was Jeremy Limb. He had practically no arms and would go around kicking people who made an issue of it. I Googled him a while ago and apparently he’s become very good at backgammon or something.

I was extremely lucky because my mother was actually prescribed Thalidomide but instead of taking those evil pills she threw them down the toilet. There but for the grace of God, etc, etc.

So it would have to be long groovy fingers in this case. I’ve always wanted to be able to play next door’s piano while watching Celebrity Big Brother. And after all, Edward Scissorhands is a bit of a gothic sex symbol isn’t he? (That’s the second time I’ve mention sex in three questions. Is this bloke obsessed?)

4) Would you rather: Lick the pavement or snort a spoonful of pepper?

In my college years I was rather prone to stuffing all sorts of substances up my nose (this probably explains the polyp). And I think on one occasion I did actually snort chilli powder. This is not an experience to be taken lightly, I can tell you that for nothing. And just as it did to Homer in an episode of The Simpsons, the chilli really did transport me to a higher plane. It was an acid trip for people who couldn’t afford tea bags, which pretty much sums up the vast amount of students whom I went to college with. Therefore pepper would most probably be mere child’s play for me.

Licking the pavement? Not for me, I’m afraid. If I want to put something in my mouth that tastes of cat bogies, white dog poo (why do you never get white dog poo these days?) and old tramp’s burst boils I’m perfectly capable of cooking something up myself.

Pepper is on the podium.

Annnnd finally…

5) Would you rather: Look like Gollum or speak like Gollum?

Well I’ve met quite a few people who talk like Gollum – including Andy Serkis, who has a child at my daughter’s school – and it’s not an attractive quality. You can be the most handsome man in the world but if you talk like Mike Tyson you quickly lose any physical advantages.

Now looking like Gollum I can empathise with. Because beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it. A lot of people have said that I look like Gollum, and frankly when they do I take it as a compliment. Thing is, however good looking you are you will eventually end up looking like something that Joan Collins dragged in. It’s obviously better to be beautiful inside like you, Lizzie. It’s a lasting quality.

Do I hear the sound of angels singing? Looking like Gollum is perfect for me.

Isn’t he a sweetie; to be honest we disagreed on almost all the answers to the questions however my answers were a little less eloquent and I still cannot decide on the Gollum question. Now to treat you even more we have a little except from the book and all the links you could ever imagine to go get stuck into. Thank you once again to Ian Probert; not only is he a wonderful author who I love working with on guest posts and reviews but he always manages to put a smile on my face no matter what we’re discussing. I cannot wait to work more with him in the future! Enough from me I’ll let Ian do the talking with this wonderful except.


Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:

This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’
There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.


“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia

“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog

Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.

Take a look for yourself:


To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:

@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks

The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.

Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?

Send your answers to truth42@icloud.com


Amazon http://geni.us/3oR8

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/johnny-nothing/id908777441?mt=11

Book promo http://youtu.be/xaWO4tR4oj0?list=UUzLRcpNMLRKKtJhes1s1C7w

WordPress http://ianprobertbooks.wordpress.com

Website http://ianprobert.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/716683635030173/

Twitter @truth42

Author biography

Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.

4 thoughts on “Would You Rather: an interview with Ian Probert

  1. truth42 says:

    Reblogged this on ianprobertbooks and commented:
    I recently undertook a blog tour – my first. I’ll probably be putting some thoughts about this on paper in the near future. In the meantime with Lizzie Baldwin’s kind permission I’m reblogging her interview with me. As you can see, it was a little different to some of the other interviews I did which often were along the lines of ‘Why do you write? How long does it take you to write a book, etc.’. Lizzie’s interview was a little more fun, and I think all the better for it.
    Incidentally, you can do a lot worse than to spend a few minutes over at Lizzie’s blog. She puts a lot of effort into it. And she’s a really nice person.

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