Andy Griffiths is the author of the hilarious, incredibly popular and seemingly unstoppable large Treehouse books. We tracked him down to ask him a few questions. Find out more below.
What were you like at school?
I really enjoyed school—had a lot of fun with my friends and my teachers often commented that I had a good sense of humour. When I was in Grade 4 I found an old typewriter at a junk shop and taught myself to touch type. I wrote and printed a magazine which I used to sell to the kids in my year level.
Were you good at English?
Yes, I loved reading and had a natural interest in language—particularly playing around with words and ideas for comic effect.
Which writer inspires you the most?
Well, I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland/Looking Glass books. The combination of philosophy, wordplay and sheer nonsense has always amused, excited and inspired me.
So, tell us a little about the Treehouse series and what inspired you to create it?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Terry, the illustrator, for twenty years now and together we love entertaining each other and seeing just how far we can push our humour. The treehouse series grew out of this process of constant experimentation and play. And, I guess, my love of Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’ books were probably responsible for the idea of a magical tree filled with unpredictable things and people.
Give us an insight into the latest book in the series, ‘The 78-Storey Treehouse’?
It’s all about a Hollywood director coming to the treehouse and attempting to make a blockbuster movie. Needless to say it all goes horribly wrong in an horribly entertaining way. Oh, and there’s spy cows. A spy cow on every page in fact.
How do you and Illustrator Terry Denton make the words and illustrations come together so perfectly?
It starts by me throwing Terry a few ideas and then him responding by drawing some pictures of those ideas which helps me to develop the ideas further and then his drawings become more detailed and include elements I hadn’t considered so I have to change and develop the story accordingly and so on and so on. The process takes a whole year for each book and Jill, my wife, editor and co-writer is there helping us to sort it out at every step of the way.
What made you want to choose this theme for the story?
Everybody is always asking us if the treehouse books are going to become a movie but, given the dreamlike structure of the treehouse and everything that happens there, we’re not so sure it would be even possible to make a movie and we’re not in any hurry. Our ambivalence about the treehouse series and movies is reflected in the plot.
What are you working on at the minute?
The 91-Storey Treehouse: Andy and Terry have to babysit Mr and Mrs Big Nose’s grandchildren. What could possibly go wrong (apart from everything?!)
How much research do you do?
I am constantly reading books, watching movies and keeping my eyes open for potential levels and story ideas.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I like to begin each day with an hour of reading, an hour of exercise and then a good breakfast. I generally aim for around 5-6 hours of writing most days, with the evenings free to just mess around and read some more.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No, sometimes it comes fast and other times painstakingly slow. I generally know whether I’m on track to deliver the manuscript on time, and if not, I need to work harder until I’m back on schedule.
Where do your ideas come from?
Absolutely everywhere. But reading extensively is one of the best ways to encounter a never-ending kaleidoscope of ideas.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Rewriting it for as many times as it takes until it’s as clear and as funny as possible. The rewriting process never stops and occasionally it can become quite exhausting. But it’s one of the most important parts of the process.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Sitting around pitching silly ideas to Terry and Jill. Occasionally one of the ideas is so outlandish that it sparks a whole new level, character or plot.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction for at least two hours every day. My all time favourite authors are Lewis Carroll, Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton, Franz Kafka and JD Salinger.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m reading ‘As I lay Dying’ by William Faulkner and revisiting some of the short stories of the southern gothic writer, Flannery O Connor.
What is your favourite book and why?
As per question 3: Well, I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland/Looking Glass books. The combination of philosophy, wordplay and sheer nonsense has always amused, excited and inspired me.
Do you have a favourite genre?
What is your favourite quote?
‘A man’s got to know his limitations’ – Clint Eastwood in one of his ‘Dirty Harry’ movies.
What is your favourite film and why?
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. A fantasy wonderland of complete nonsense starring one of the funniest comedic characters ever created.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
At this rate—adding 13 storeys to our treehouse each year—I’ll probably be working on the 156 Storey Treehouse.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stay away from man-eating sharks.
Do you have a favourite positive saying?
When the chips are down, go eat some chips (Read the 78-Storey Treehouse and you’ll understand.)
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Actually, I met a lot of famous dead people when I went time travelling in the wheelie bin with Terry in the 65-Storey Treehouse.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Because it’s perfect.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Research the type of books you love reading and direct your efforts towards learning how to writer your own versions. That way you’ll be gaining a huge amount of enjoyment and satisfaction. whether they get published or not,
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Nowhere. Books still offer a particularly personal pleasure for the reader that movies and computer games—whatever their other merits—just can’t match.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Reading the books is the best way. And if that’s not enough you can visit www.andygriffiths.com.au