About The Author
David Walliams is well known for his work with Matt Lucas. Together they created the TV series Little Britain, which has won numerous international awards including three BAFTAs and is now shown in over 100 countries. David and Matt followed Little Britain with the hugely popular spoof airport documentary series Come Fly With Me.
David has also proven himself as a dramatic actor, with acclaimed roles in Stephen Poliakoff's Capturing Mary, as Frankie Howerd in the biopic Rather You Than Me, and on the West End stage in Harold Pinter's No Man's Landstarring alongside Sir Michael Gambon and in Michael Grandage's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Noël Coward Theatre in 2013. In September 2011 David swam 140 miles from Gloucestershire to Westminster raising £2.5 million for Sports Relief. David has also proved popular in his role as a judge on TV talent show Britain's Got Talent, where he found inspiration for one of the characters in his novel Ratburger.
David's publishing career began in 2008 with The Boy in the Dress and each subsequent novel has seen his popularity grow to ever-dizzying heights. Mr Stink was adapted for TV in 2012 and Gangsta Granny in 2013. He has also produced a picture book, The Slightly Annoying Elephant, illustrated by Tony Ross.
We caught up with David in between books, on the set of Britain's Got Talent, where our junior interviewer and one of his biggest fans, 12-year-old Elaine Miller chatted to him about standing up for what you believe in, the book that changed his life and what makes a good story. He also dropped a hint about the book that was to become his latest novel, Awful Auntie.
Solo photo of David Walliams © Simon Emmett
Questions & Answers
You were already a successful performer and writer for tv, what motivated you to write children's books?
Well I just had an idea for a story, which was: what would happen if a boy went to school dressed as a girl, and thought maybe it would make a good children's book. Also, I loved children's books even as an adult, and I knew lots of children liked Little Britain, which was popular at the time. It just happened quite spontaneously really.
Where did you get the idea?
It's always hard to say exactly where ideas come from, but my sister used to dress me up in her bridesmaid's dress when I was a boy of about 3 or 4, and so I suppose it was a little bit autobiographical.
Which role do you feel is truest to yourself: as a dad, Simon Cowell's husband, a judge, an author, a comedian, or something else?
I enjoyed doing all those things differently but probably the most fun thing is winding up Simon Cowell so I suppose I would say Simon Cowell's husband. But he thinks I'm like an annoying dog, that latches on to your leg and you can't shake off!
Did you get bullied in school, because in most of your books someone gets bullied?
Well I was a little bit. I think that most children experience bullying at some stage. They're bullied and then they in turn bully, which is sadly very common, and sometimes they are bullying and don't' realise they're doing it. I was definitely teased. I realised it's a common experience so it's good to put it in the books and deal with it. In Ratburger, at the end I let the bully have some redemption, which means I let them become a good person because I think people see the issue in very black and white terms and it's not always that simple. There's often a reason why people bully and normally it's because they're not very happy.
Why didn't the boy in the dress stand up for what he believed in?
He was scared, wasn't he, because it was something unknown. But ultimately he is brave because he's who he wants to be. A lot of the time people hide who they really are because they're afraid of being bullied. Ultimately it's a scary thing, he feels different but he made things better for everyone else by being himself.
The sweetshop owner Raj appears in all your books; is that because you can't bear to let him go or do you want to make one world for all your books?
Raj is a character I really love having in my books because he's not a parent and not a teacher, so he can give kids advice in a very honest way. He's very funny as well. And yes, I like the idea that the books could possibly all be set in the same town, it's just a little connection.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet, and why?
That's a hard one! I'd like to meet Burt in Ratburger because he's so grotesque and evil. And I'd like to meet Raj - he would give me free sweets probably, and I'd be his favourite customer.
Do you ever read over your books and see things you'd like to change - for example, Granny dying in Gangster Granny? Have any of them made you laugh or cry?
Well, I might laugh and cry as I write the books. I do reread them while they're being edited so by that time the surprise has gone so I tend not to laugh and cry by the time the books are actually published. There are little things I'd like to change but not the big things. I'm glad Granny dies. I know it was a bit controversial but I think, sadly in real life people do die and as a child you do lose your grandparents sometimes. It is part of life and it's no bad thing dealing with it even at a young age.
Do you know things about your characters that are not in your books, including how they looked before they were illustrated?
The characters kind of grow really. And also when Quentin Blake or Tony Ross start working on them they have their own interpretation as well. Normally I do like what they do. Sometimes it's just different to how you imagined it and sometimes that's a good thing because they can make it better.
Do you ever get grossed out by your own characters - for example, Burt?
I've always quite liked gross humour. and I've always thought kids love things being disgusting. When I was growing up there were always horrible stories going around, for example, about people buying a hamburger at a fast food place and later realising they'd eaten rat! Probably none of them were true but they got passed around the playground anyway.
Which one of your books do you like the most and why?
I probably like Mr Stink the most. I'm very fond of that one. The first book came a lot from me and my experiences but Mr Stink came purely from my imagination. I think it's quite a tender story. I think people were surprised, as the comedy I'd done didn't really have any tenderness; it was quite hard-edged and Mr Stink as a story is quite soft-edged.
What makes a good story?
Originality. A story that hasn't quite been told before. Stories do follow certain patterns and some stories are like others but they must always have original elements to them. Every day it gets harder because every day there's a new story. But you can find new ways. J K Rowling comes along with Harry Potter and you say, 'wow she's created a whole new world'. Even now someone somewhere is probably coming up with the next big new idea, it could even be you!
Is there a book that changed your life?
I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because that was the first book I read for pleasure myself rather than for school and I really loved it, it turned me on to reading. I've been a fan of Roald Dahl ever since.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
It's top secret at the moment but it's going to be very different from the others. For one thing, it's not going to be set in the present day but that's all I can say at the moment.