Tom Collins meets Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler, the brilliantly silly creative duo behind Hamish and the WorldStoppers, to talk about their fear of the ‘pause’, very honest audience feedback and how Danny can improve his openers.
As successful creators of grown-up fiction, what’s the biggest challenge when creating something for a much younger audience?
Danny Wallace: When I’ve written books for adults, I’ve come up with the story, written the story, published the story, and that’s where the responsibility ends. But with kids, you’re imagining them having those books read to them at bedtime. So you want to make it punchy, funny and direct, and full of twists. So almost with every page, I’m like an eager puppy saying, ‘Please like this! Please like it!’
Jamie Littler: You don’t want to be too daring or risqué. It can be so influential with a child – everyone remembers the books they grew up with. It’s not about money; it’s about creating something that has lasting power and resonance.
Is there anything you’ve either drawn or written that you were convinced would be a hit with the kids, but fell flat?
DW: With the kids, there’s no filter, they can be brutally honest! I had a bunch of letters from a primary school the other day, and I tried to answer all of their questions as best as I could, and the same criticisms kept coming up. They all went, ‘If I could offer you one piece of advice, use more powerful openers. Words like surprisingly or stunningly…’ So either they all talked about it in class before I came up, or I’ve really got to work on my openers.
JL: We live in a world where you can put your work out there and people will only be too happy to rip it to shreds. But it’s the honesty you get from kids that so refreshing. Kids have come to me and asked me why I’ve done this, or why I’ve chosen to illustrate a character like that.
Just like Hamish in the books, have either of you ever thought about what you’d do if time stood still?
DW: I’d go round Jamie’s house and rub out all of his illustrations, so in a blink of an eye it would be all gone.
JL: I’d probably be incredibly terrified; maybe have a scream for a few minutes!
DW: We posed a kid the same question, and he very timidly raised his hand and said, ‘I’d probably just have a pint of milk to calm my nerves!’
JL: Yeah I think I’d take a leaf out of that kid’s book.
For more from Danny Wallace, Jamie Littler and the star of their books, Hamish Ellerby, visit worldofhamish.com.
Images by lieselbockl.co.uk; @LieselBockl