“Children are more supervised than when I grew up in the 70s. There was a great deal of freedom. But that freedom is always possible when you read – to imaginatively experience the wildest, silliest, most dangerous things.”
Andy Griffiths’s aim is to put the punk back into kids’ books in an era of ‘cotton wool childhoods’. Andy started writing aged 6 and was a teacher for four years prior to becoming a children’s book author. We chat with the bestselling author of the famous Treehouse series (he’s in Singapore for a series of meet-the-author experiences – find out when and where at the end!). Andy writes the stories, his friend Terry Denton illustrates the pictures and Andy’s wife edits the books. Did Andy’s kids have a treehouse growing up? Where does he get his wacky ideas from? How do he and his wife deal with living and working together all day (separate
treehouses studies help). Read on for some insight into the man behind many of your kid’s books at home!
Read More: Kids’ Theatre Shows in Singapore
Scroll to find out how to win a set of family tickets to the ‘Andy Griffiths 13-Storey Treehouse Live on Stage‘ theatre show!
Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I have a degree in English Literature but I still love reading the horror and science fiction comics I adored when I was a kid. I thought I’d grown out of them but, if anything, I’ve grown INTO them!
How did the original idea for your Treehouse series, come about?
The original idea came from having exhausted all of our ideas for the third book in a series that Terry and I had created. We had the idea to write a book about not being able to write the book which would feature us and all the ways we wasted time instead of writing and how all the wasted time would eventually become the book. We thought it would be fun to say we lived in a treehouse with a bowling alley, tank full of man-eating sharks and a marshmallow machine and then it just escalated from there. As Terry drew more and more levels I had to write about them and in the process of doing that I would generate more level ideas for him to draw. My daughter has occasionally given us an idea, as have many of our readers.
We read that your mission started off as ‘putting the punk in kids’ books in an era of cotton wool childhoods.’ Tell us about this and what you hope your books can achieve.
I guess in general children are more supervised than when I grew up in the 70s. We could get on our bikes and disappear all day having adventures in the nearby bushland and creeks. There was a great deal of freedom that, for a variety of reasons, is not necessarily possible or even desirable for children of today. But that freedom is always possible when you read- the freedom to imaginatively experience the wildest, silliest, funniest and most dangerous things.
Did your kids have a real treehouse at home growing up?
No, unfortunately not. Even if we’d had a suitable tree I don’t have the sort of skills that would be necessary to build one. I didn’t have one growing up either, although my cousin had a single level platform in a tree that we used to play long imaginative games in. But really, a ‘treehouse’ can be anywhere where you feel safe and relaxed and able to drift off.
We hear you started writing aged 6 – did you always aspire to be an author?
I was always writing something or other to entertain my friends and family. At school I collected jokes and wrote fake funny news stories which I typed up and printed into a semi-regular magazine called ‘Popcorn’ which I sold to the other students for 3 cents a copy to cover costs. As a teenager I developed a great love of music and started writing funny song lyrics and I formed a band with some friends and we turned my lyrics into songs. I loved being the singer and performing concerts but after a while I realised my true passion was for the writing rather than the singing.
Tell us about your relationship with illustrator Denton.
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy an almost 25 year collaboration with Terry. We both share a love of absurd humour, although we come at it from different angles—I tend to plan ideas out whereas he just turns on a tap and ideas pour out of his pen. But the combination of the two styles is very productive. We’ve had a long time to experiment with many different types of humour and the most effective ways of combining words and pictures to tell the most completely involving story we can. It’s all done in an atmosphere of fun and playfulness and neither of us has ever hit the other with a giant banana in real life.
Your wife Jill is your book editor and even helps write some of the stories – does she ever edit out some of your crazier ideas?
Jill edits and advises on the books from the first ideas, through the first drafts right until the last full stop on the very final draft. She has been a voracious reader for her whole life and has a great sense of when a story is working and, even more importantly, when it’s NOT working. She’ll always alert us if she feels the story is flagging in energy or getting too silly or, sometimes believe it or not, if the story is not silly enough! The books often start off with way too many words and ideas and plenty of great stuff hits the cutting room floor, but we have to be ruthless—if it’s funny but not helping to tell the story it has to go. (Well, most of it, anyway. And often what gets cut inspires the next book where it will eventually be used.)
What’s it like working with your partner – do you both ever just need some space from each other?
We have a very harmonious working relationship. Jill doesn’t find writing easy herself but she knows exactly what to do with the rough drafts I give her. How to improve it in all sorts of ways – especially how to make it funnier. We have separate offices in separate parts of the house so we’re not together all the time. When we’re not writing Jill will go out and play tennis and badminton with friends and I’ll hit the running track or the gym. And I do go on regular book tours to various countries so we get plenty of time apart – as well as together. We both have a great shared love of books and comedy… and very long walks.
How did you become a writer?
I started a writing journal in which I set myself the goal of writing for half an hour each day. Things that happened, dreams, memories, jokes, observations, descriptions etc. These writings eventually started turning into small funny stories which I used to entertain my students with (I was a school teacher for four years.) Eventually I took leave from teaching, enrolled in a formal writing and editing course and it all developed from there over many years of constant practice and a lot of persistence and hard work.
When will the next Treehouse series be released – The 169-Storey Treehouse? This will be the 13th Treehouse book in the series – will it be the last one? If yes what next?
The 169-Storey will be published in Australia in September 2023 and in the UK in October 2023. It will be the thirteenth and final book in the series. Given that we started with 13 storeys and have added 13 new storeys in each book, 13 books seemed like the logical place to stop. And what next after that? I don’t know – but I can’t wait to find out!
Will this be your first visit to Singapore? Anything you are particularly looking forward to?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Singapore on various book tours and for theatrical performances of Treehouse plays many times over the years. I love the gardens near the centre of the city 0they’re a great place to go for a run. Running is one of my favourite things to do when I’m not writing. And of course I’m looking forward to the food, always the food!
Meet Children’s Book Author Andy Griffiths in Singapore:
Meet children’s book Author Andy Griffiths in Singapore at these times and places.
- Friday 17 March 2023 3pm at Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store (Level 4, Takashimaya S.C.)
- Saturday 18 March 2023 2pm at Popular Bras Basah Complex, Level 4
- Sunday 19 March 2023 11am at Times Waterway Point
Plus stand a chance to win a set of family tickets to the 13-Storey Treehouse: Live on Stage theatre show during the Q&A session!
Read More: Kids’ Theatre Shows in Singapore