Author, columnist, comedian and script-writer, Danny Wallace, flew to London from his home in Los Angeles for one week in March 2017. Between interviews, meetings, award-ceremonies and the publication of his latest book, ‘Hamish and the Gravity Burp’, we managed to squeeze in some time with him to talk about how he comes up with his ideas. As you’ll see from Danny’s video, he starts with just one word.
For his first book, the word was ‘worldstoppers’. This idea came to him when he was on a school trip many years ago… as the school bus raced down roads and past pedestrians, he wondered whether everyone else in the world would stop when he wasn’t looking. Several years later, the idea was still floating around, and he began to dream up a character called Hamish who finds himself in a very strange situation when the world around him stops.
We had great fun talking to Danny about the difference between writing for children and writing Hollywood movie scripts, and he even told us how he uses what he’s afraid of to fuel his ideas… he’s never been on a rollercoaster so there’s a rather hair-raising scene in ‘Hamish and The Worldstoppers’ where Hamish gets stuck at the top of a rollercoaster, and he hates prawns so he called the school bully’s alter-ego wrestling character the mexican word for ‘Prawn’.
After recording Danny’s Q&A at Hampton Junior School (who have the most spectacular ‘Wall of Wondrous Words surrounding their library), we even got to chat to the illustrator of the Hamish series, Jamie Littler. What we didn’t realise was that it was Jamie’s birthday – we’re still kicking ourselves for missing an opportunity for tea and cake (one of the perks of working in the publishing industry is that there’s always cake!). It was brilliant to chat to Jamie about the different books he’s illustrated, and how he goes about illustrating the Hamish series – look out for Jamie’s interview on Authorfy soon!
After filming with Danny at Hampton Junior School, we visited the Simon & Schuster offices in London (they publish books by Danny Wallace, Abi Elphinstone and loads more!). There, we set up a writing desk for Danny and filmed him at work, thinking up ideas and changing / improving words as he went along.
Behind the Scenes Moment: To begin with, the desk looked a bit bare, so we asked for a plant or two to put behind Danny. Two minutes later, the entire S&S staff came running into the room, each bearing pots of plants, vases of flowers and tiny cacti. The room soon looked like a florist, and when Danny arrived we welcomed him to his ‘greenhouse office’. As you can see from the final video, a few plants didn’t quite make the cut, and we ended up with a stationery explosion, scrunched up paper being thrown around the room, and a cup of tea and biscuits thrown in for good measure!
We hope you enjoy Danny’s video and realise that stories don’t come to you fully-formed. Just think of one word as a starting point and go from there (and if that doesn’t work, think of something you’re afraid of and use that to fuel your ideas!)