Little London – September 2016

Meet the author: Isla Fisher

The Australian comedy actress and children’s writer reveals all about her brand new book series

One thing’s for sure, Isla Fisher knows how to do funny. After proving her acting credentials long ago, on the sunny shores of Summer Bay in Home & Away in 1994, she has gone on to become the princess of comedy, starring in the likes of Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic and more recently, Keeping Up With The Joneses. Oh, and she happened to study in Paris for a while at Jacques Lecoq clown school – that was, until she realised “there wasn’t much call for miming the wall”.

All quite fitting, really, considering Isla’s husband is comedian and screenwriter Sacha Baron Cohen. After tying the knot in Paris in 2010, the pair now live in LA with their children, Olive, eight, Elula, five, and one-year-old son, Montgomery.

But of all the roles she has taken on over the years, Isla confesses that her favourite has been as a mother. And while she has always been a keen writer (Isla published two novels with the help of her romance novelist mother in 1996), she admits she never really had the time to take it on as a serious project.

Now, the actress has released her first children’s book, Marge in Charge, which follows the story of an eccentric babysitter, after revealing she would spend every night making up bedtime stories for her little ones. So, has she got the bug for a brand new career move? We catch up with her to find out…

Tell us, how did Marge in Charge first come about?
Marge was conceived as a way to get my children to bed. But then she became this larger-than-life character who they wanted to hear more about every night before they went to sleep. Storytelling is a great opportunity for parents to connect and discuss ideas with their children. My late grandmother loved stories; that passion was inherited by my mother, who then passed it down to me.

Marge is a flamboyant babysitter, who inspired the character?
If my two best friends had a love child, it would be Marge! One of them is like the eternal Peter Pan – in total denial about reality – and the other tells the most amazing magical stories. The Marge stories are a bit like The Cat In The Hat meets My Naughty Little Sister, two books I love to read with my children. I find kids are used to other kids misbehaving but when grown-ups do it, they find it hilarious. When Marge misbehaves it’s not in an intentional or mean-spirited way, she unlocks the other characters’ creativity.

What’s the main message you want the book to portray to children?
Don’t worry about being perfect, or you’ll miss out on the fun! I also try to keep that as a message for myself when I am juggling life.

Marge in Charge is the first in the series, can you reveal anything about your next book?
There will be three books in total. The next one is called Marge and the Pirate Baby.

Eglantine Ceulemans illustrated the series, why did you decide to team up?
I didn’t know Eglantine, my publisher found her. But I think she is utterly brilliant, she surpassed all of my hopes for the characters. I think illustrations are an integral part of helping younger children connect to the material – it brings the characters to life.

How do you manage to fit in writing with being a mother and actress?
I’m always tired! I wish I knew the secret to balancing it all as a working mother, but I don’t have a clue. I just try to accept that I am not always going to be perfect.

Do you think your acting career has helped you with your role as a writer?
It has certainly helped me to create strong characters in my books and keep all the voices sounding different. Storyline-wise, I prefer it when scenes end somewhere surprising, so I have tried to do that with my books, too. I love acting and writing equally. I get lost in both experiences, and effectively I get to act out all the parts in my head as I am writing.

So, which is your main focus in terms of career now?
Both! I’d love to write more kids’ books and, on the acting side, work with the Coen brothers, David Fincher, Spike Jonze and Adam McKay – preferably not as their assistant, though.

What films have you worked on lately?
In Keeping Up With The Joneses, where I play a bored suburban housewife married to Zach Galifianakis, I got to work with the wonderful Greg Mottola of Superbad fame. And Tom Ford, who I have been working with on Nocturnal Animals, is the dream director for me – collaborative, fiercely intelligent and a brilliant storyteller. He’s one of those people who you meet and feel instantly like an underachiever next to.

What attracts you to the roles in the first instance?
The director first, then the character. And then the practical stuff like location and time frame because obviously my job has to fit in around four other people’s lives also!

Do you get to spend much time in London as a family?
I love London! There is so much culture, and so many wonderful experiences for kids. In the summer, I like to spend time in the parks, reading, and doing all the usual family stuff.

What else is in the pipeline for 2016?
I think my biggest aim is to sleep through the night…

Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher (£5.99, Piccadilly Press) is out now