The Hobart

Andy Griffiths: Eight Questions with An Eight-Year-Old

by Jack
Andy Griffiths: Eight Questions with An Eight-Year-Old

What kid wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a chat with the author of their favourite book series? Our very own Jack got the chance to interview children’s author, Andy Griffiths, to get the skinny on the best selling Treehouse and JUST! series and (in Jack’s words) how to make lots of money writing books.

Where did the idea for the Treehouse series come from? One day Terry and I were working on a story and it was going to be about the two of us trying to write a book but getting distracted. I asked Terry to draw a fun treehouse for us to live in with stuff like a tank full of man-eating sharks and a bowling alley. His first sketch had 13 levels and he added even more great things, like the see-through swimming pool and catapult. So that’s how it all started. We enjoyed writing the book so much we decided to do another one, maybe a series, and to go up by 13 levels each time. So far, we are up to The 156-Storey Treehouse, and The 169-Storey Treehouse will be published later this year.

What’s the first thing you do when you start a new book? Come up with the title. I can’t really get started until I know what the story or book is going to be called. Then I start asking myself questions about what sort of story the title suggests and it all takes off from there.

How long does it take to make a book? It takes me, Terry and Jill (my wife and also our editor) about a year to write each book. I spend months roughing out the plot and talking it over with Jill. Then we type it all up and lay out the pages. Then Terry does rough sketches. We then rewrite and edit the story until we are happy with it. It goes back to Terry for the final pictures. This takes him 3–4 months. And then it all goes to the publishers and it takes a couple more months to do the proofreading, design the cover and print the books.

What do you like about making books? I love coming up with ideas for stories. At the start, anything can happen and I love that freedom…you really can imagine anything.

Why do you think kids enjoy your books so much? The feedback I get from readers is that they like the books because they are funny, they like the adventures the characters go on, they love the drawings, and that the books are easy to read and fun to re-read.

Do you make lots of money making books? These days I’m very fortunate to be able to make enough money to write books full time, but it wasn’t always that way and it took many years of hard work, persistence and supporting myself with many other jobs before I found an audience for my offbeat humour and stories. (Most writers become writers because they love writing and storytelling for its own sake…not for the money!)

You’re coming to Hobart with a show at Theatre Royal about your book series JUST! What is that series about? The JUST! books are fast-paced short stories told by young Andy, who considers himself the world’s greatest, craziest, most annoying, and most stupid practical joker. Unfortunately, most of his tricks and schemes backfire on him. It’s pretty much my autobiography with a few made-up bits.

What advice would you have for an eight-year-old who might like to make books like yours? My best advice for how to become an author is to practise—that’s the best way to get better at anything, whether it’s learning a musical instrument, playing a sport or writing. Write every day-whether it’s in your writing practice journal or a newsletter or computer blog. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, read as much and as many books as you can.

Can you give me some writing tips? Get a cheap exercise book and write in it every day…5 minutes a day to start with, and gradually increase to at least 30 minutes a day. You get better at writing like you get better at everything else, through constant practice. A good idea is to write the sort of stories that you love to read because, without realising it, you will learn a lot about this particular type of story and how it is supposed to work.

Want to meet Andy? He’ll be here in Hobart for the JUST! Shows, at Theatre Royal from 16-17 August.

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July 2024

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