Stephanie Mackentyre speaks to comedian, actor, television presenter and author David Walliams about bringing his children’s book, Gangsta Granny, to life
What inspired Gangsta Granny?
When I was a child I would spend lots of time with my grandmas. Sometimes I would selfishly think spending time with them could be boring but when I got them on a subject like living in London during World War II when bombs were raining down, they would become very animated and I would be enthralled. I realised everyone has a story to tell.
What were your grannies like and are there any elements of their characters in Gangsta Granny?
There was definitely a smell of cabbages in one of my grandmas’ houses. The other did break wind like a duck quacking when she walked across the room.
Many people would say there’s a special bond between children and their grandparents. Why do you think that is?
I think grandparents love being grandparents because they get to give the children back to the parents! Children love spending time with their grandparents because they love hearing their stories and being allowed to stay up past their bedtime.
When did you decide to write children’s fiction and what encouraged you?
Ten years ago I had an idea for a story. What if a boy went to school dressed as a girl? I thought it would be a thought-provoking children’s book. That became The Boy in the Dress, the first of my eight children’s novels.
What are the delights of writing children’s fiction?
The only limitation in a children’s book is your imagination. You can take children on magical journeys in books that many adults would be reluctant to go on.
And the challenges of writing for children?
Children love to be scared but it can’t be too horrifying. Children love to laugh but it can’t be too rude. You always have to be the right side of the line.
You’ve often talked about Roald Dahl. What do you think makes him special?
I think Dahl’s books always feel a little bit forbidden. He manages to balance the humour and scary elements in his stories perfectly.
Which Dahl books do you particularly like and why?
The Twits is utterly hilarious and I love that it is a children’s book with no child characters.
Which other children’s writers did you enjoy as a child and why?
I loved Dr Seuss books as a child, especially ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. His books are like nightmares come to life. They are rich and strange and utterly unlike anybody else’s work.
What do you think children enjoy in your books?
I imagine they like the humour and that I don’t patronise them. I deal with quite big topics like cross-dressing, homelessness, grief. I know children are a lot smarter than most grown-ups think.Buy Now