A HUGE hello to my readers, wherever you are!
I hope you have a spook-tacular Christmas (or equivalent holiday!)
Tommy in grave peril (geddit?!)
So, in his annual ‘say something controversial to get his name in the papers’ event, Horrible Histories author – Terry Deary – has questioned the validity of teaching assistants.
Whilst I don’t yet have a reply for this latest utter nonsense – I DO have something to say about his last pile-o-bollocks, in which he suggested that all libraries should be closed and everyone in the UK given a Kindle…
Children’s author, Tommy Donbavand, has today called for librarians to be slaughtered, minced, and fed to the poor.
“In the wake of the horse meat scandal, it would make sense for families on lower incomes to know exactly what they were eating,” said Donbavand.
Taking inspiration from fellow author, Terry Deary, who suggested this week that libraries should be closed and poor people in the UK given an e-reader instead, Donbavand is keen to garner as much self-publicity as possible for his own unpopular opinions.
“If Terry can get on TV and in all the papers by making ridiculous statements about libraries having had their day, then just imagine how much free PR I’ll get for suggesting we eat librarians!” he said.
“Growing up, I regularly visited my local library where I took advice from the friendly, experienced librarians on what amazing adventure to read next. It’s what set me on the path to becoming an author. However, like Terry, now that I’ve achieved my goals, I don’t want anyone else to have that opportunity.”
“And with all those closed libraries, this is a way for qualified librarians to continue to be some use.”
Donbavand has suggested that librarians could be rounded up and transported to a suitable abattoir in the vans used until recently as mobile libraries, once we’ve seen sense and got rid of those as well.
“Terry Deary said that bookshops are closing down because libraries give books away for free,” continued Donbavand. “With that in mind, it’s only fair to give the now unemployed booksellers first dibs on the sliced and diced librarian meat.”
“Oh, and if you superglue several kittens together, they’d make a pretty good draught excluder. Probably.”
Newspapers, TV shows and Hollywood producers can provide free publicity for Tommy Donbavand by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m sure by now that you’re all completely fed up with my constant plugging of Scream Street on TV (I’ll hush up soon – I promise!), but I do have one more – very personal – thing to say about it…
Back in the summer this year (2015), my Dad’s cancer took a drastic turn for the worse and the family had to accept that he wouldn’t be with us for much longer. We were all utterly heart-broken, as you can imagine.
My Dad was always one of my biggest supporters, and he both helped and inspired me every single day in my chosen career. I simply couldn’t have stuck through all the ups and downs without him. Now, as I finally approached a new milestone with the TV show, it looked as though he wouldn’t be with us to enjoy it.
Step up the show’s producers, Coolabi, and animators, Factory. When they heard about this, they began to send me everything they could – Scream Street artwork, photos, animatics and even partial video clips so that I could view them with my Dad in his final few weeks. He loved every moment, and I will never be able to thank them enough for that.
I love you and miss you, Dad. This series is for you and Mum. x
The UK’s education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has promised to ensure that every eight year old in the country joins their local library.
This is the letter I’ve just emailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Nicky Morgan
My name is Tommy Donbavand, and I’m the author of over 80 books for children and teenagers.
I think it is a FANTASTIC idea that you have decided to ensure that every eight year old in the UK joins a library. However, as your government is – directly or indirectly – closing libraries, cutting library opening hours and removing qualified librarians from their posts, don’t you think that it may get a little crowded when we are eventually down to one, single library run by volunteers and every child has to get their books from there?
Two years ago I took part in the opening ceremonies of the new Library of Birmingham. Last week, I was asked to donate books to the same as they have no money left to purchase more. I’m not certain, but I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way.
Please don’t get me wrong – as a fan of George Orwell’s 1984, I can see the appeal to the government of restricting access to free, uncensored reading material. Having a proletariat that can learn and think for itself is distinctly ungood. It’s just a bit off to promise library access to children, then remove the libraries themselves, don’t you think? What’s next, free wafer cones on the day you ban ice cream?
I was about to close this email by suggesting that – the next time you attempt a project such as this – you align yourself with a real children’s author and not a celebrity who has spotted a quick way to add to their already bulging coffers. But, as I can’t think of a single author who would want to be associated with your government’s library policy, I have decided not to make that suggestion.
Author, scriptwriter and creative writing tutor
Ever wondered what I would look like as a cartoon character in The Beano?
Of course you have! Well, thanks to the incredible Steve Beckett, here is that very image!
Steve drew this for the ‘About The Author‘ page in our forthcoming series about the world’s coolest superhero, Snow-Man. Big thanks to Danny Pearson at Badger Learning for letting me share it with you early!
I’m so very unhappy to announce that this morning we lost my dad, and the greatest man I’ve ever known – Brian Donbavand – following a long battle with cancer. He fought to the very end, and I will miss him every single day.
No matter what I wanted to do with my life and my career, my Dad was always behind me, 100%.
He came to see every school and amateur dramatic performance I was in.
He took the family on holiday to Pontins on the Isle of Wight, where I was a Bluecoat.
He helped build props for my kids magic show when I worked as a clown called Wobblebottom.
He listened to every single demo tape I made when I was trying to get into local radio.
He enjoyed cruises on the MV Kareliya, where I was the children’s entertainer.
He sat in the audience – again and again and again – for Buddy, when I played the Clearlake MC.
He came to see shows such as Hey Diddle Diddle, The Forgotten Nursery and Goldilocks and the Three Bears which I had written and was appearing in when I worked in children’s theatre.
He drove up to the book launch for Scream Street.
He collected every book I’d written.
He pushed me to ‘get my bounce back‘ when I was down.
He loved seeing clips of the forthcoming Scream Street TV series, while knowing he wouldn’t be here to see it launch this October.
He was the best Dad I could ever have had, and the best Granddad possible for my boys.
He was my Dad.
I want to ring him, text him, say hello. I want to pop in, chat, sit in companionable silence. But I can’t do that, ever again.
My Dad, like me, wasn’t a religious man. But he was the most caring, kind, funny, amazing man I have ever known. I have a hundred stories to tell about him, but they can wait until I can tell them and laugh – rather than cry.
He was married to my Mum – Elizabeth Mary Donbavand – for 38 years, until she died ten years ago, also from cancer. He was devastated at my Mum’s death.
But, he battled on and, in time, he met Barbara, who was to become his new partner and a much loved member of our family. They shared many wonderful years together.
In his final moments, he was surrounded by those who love him most – myself, my brother Bryan, my sister Sue, and his partner Barbara. We are all proud to have been part of this incredible man’s life.
Goodnight Dad. I love you, and I always will. x
One of the questions I’m asked most often is how I got published.
What’s more interesting than the question itself, however, is the belief and/or hope that there is some sort of magic formula or shortcut that I have found and can give the questioner to stop them having to do all the hard work.
Guess what? There is no magic formula. You have to do it the traditional, hard work way by writing and submitting to agents and publishers. It is hard work – but remember, with the launch of my forthcoming website – Step by Step Writer – I’m here to help you, every step of the way!
Trust me! If I can do it – so can you!
I read a lot when I was a child – everything from Roald Dahl to The Three Investigators to my favourite weekly comic – The Beano. I also devoured the fantastic Doctor Who novels published by Target Books – many of which were written by my personal writing hero, Terrance Dicks.
I was also heavily into amateur dramatics…
All this reading prompted me to try writing my own tales – which I first attempted at around the age of 12. Before long, I gave up hanging around street corners like other teenagers, preferring instead to stay at home and practice my art. Thankfully, I hit the library (no Internet back then…) and knew enough about how books were made not to submit my first ever attempts (although I did send some sketches out to Spitting Image, Stephen Fry and Ben Elton, getting very kind ‘keep it up’ letters in return).
After college I made the obvious career move – and became a clown called Wobblebottom (no, really!). I worked first at holiday centres around the UK and later on cruise liners, entertaining children.
A few years later I joined the cast of a musical in London’s West End – Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – and even that was down to one-part perseverance and two-parts metal balls. I went to see the show with my parents, spotted a part I thought I’d be good at and wrote to the producer that night, claiming I would be a much better choice than the current guy. That landed me the audition – but, when I got there, they asked me to read for a different role. I knew I would only have this chance once in my life and so I stopped halfway through and told them they should let me audition for the character I wanted. They did, I got the part, and stayed with the show for the next eight years.
While in Buddy, I continued writing and continued being rejected. Neither agents nor publishers were interested in the fiction I had to offer. So, I turned to the old phrase ‘write what you know’ and put together all the games and activities I’d created and developed during my work as a children’s entertainer. I pitched the book far and wide and, soon after, Quick Fixes For Bored Kids was published by How To Books in the UK.
See – I was thin, once!
Three other books – More Quick Fixes For Bored Kids, Quick Fixes For Kids’ Parties and Boredom Busters – followed. Before long I was running events in book shops and being interviewed on both local and national radio as an expert in keeping kids entertained. It wasn’t what I wanted to write, but it was a foot in the door, nonetheless.
Then the door closed over my foot.
Buddy ended, I left London, and the events dried up. The books weren’t selling very well at all – partly because parents who buy books telling them how to keep their kids from being bored don’t generally have the type of kids that get bored – and partly because the publisher insisted on classifying the books as ‘parenting’ titles, instead of ‘activities’. I would often go into book shops and find my work far away from the children’s section, sandwiched instead between toilet training guides and books of baby names.
I worked for a few months on a computer tech support line, then auditioned for a role in a small-scale children’s show visiting schools over Christmas. I did the tour, and stayed with the production company afterwards in order to write their next shows – for next to no money at all. But hey, at least I was writing again. I often found myself playing a part in show ‘A’ while writing show ‘B’. It was exhausting.
I was still writing fiction in what little spare time I had, sending off my work to publishers and agents, and amassing an impressive collection of rejection letters in return. Apparently, my four previous books (now rapidly dropping out of print) counted for nothing. I was back on the outside, forcing my work into the bottom of the slush pile.
I began to teach writing to adults in the evenings and set up a web forum to enable people in the classes to stay in touch. Before long, an established writer posted on the board saying that Egmont Press was looking for writers-for-hire for a new children’s horror series, but that only writers with published fiction to their name need apply. It was steel balls time again…
I called the editor and convinced her to let me write a sample chapter. I was successful and soon chosen as the first author for the Too Ghoul For School series, eventually writing five titles for the range. I was paid a one-off fee for each book, and no royalties – and it wasn’t even my name on the cover – but it was published fiction, and a step in the right direction.
My school events continued apace and I soon spotted an ad looking for a new writer-in-residence at Seven Stories, the UK’s centre for children’s books, based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. I applied and got the gig, ready to spend the next 12 months running workshops and writing exclusive material for visitors.
It was time to take a leap of faith so, in September 2006, on the day my son was born – I quit my job at the theatre company and became a full-time writer. I started writing to agents again, pretty much to deaf ears until one of them suggested I contact the person who eventually became my agent. I sent her my latest manuscript – a comedy space adventure for kids – and waited for her response.
She asked me to come to London for a meeting and explained that the book wasn’t what she was looking for, but asked if I was working on anything else. I pitched an idea I had for a comedy horror series and she liked it. I signed with the agency and settled down to write what would become the first title in my Scream Street series.
I worked for almost six months on refining the manuscript and redrafting until it was in good enough shape to submit. My agent’s notes were invaluable and, eventually, the series was picked up by Walker Books for publication in the UK from October 2008 onwards.
Now the hard work really began and, with my new editor , I got stuck in to writing the series while doing as many school events as I could. Part way into book three, I had an idea for a second Scream Street series and, whipping out the metal orbs again, I pitched it to Walker Books at their annual sales conference. The six book series was now doubled to 12 adventures (later upped again to 13 so I could drop a longer ‘hinge’ book between the two sets of adventures).
My regular school visits paid off when I was approached by Reading Is Fundamental (part of the UK’s National Literacy Trust) and asked to become the first RIF Ambassador, attached to a primary school in Middlesbrough and charged with the task of getting the pupils into reading and writing. It was a great experience – and the school even initiated the Tommy Donbavand Writing Hero award!
Since then, Scream Street has been published in 13 different languages around the world, and is currently in production as an animated TV series, set to launch in 2016.
I continued to pitch to various publishers and, for the first time, some of began to get in touch to commission me. In the past few years, I’ve written a shelf-load of books especially for reluctant and struggling readers, including Zombie!, Wolf, Uniform and Virus for Barrington Stoke; Home, Kidnap, Ward 13, Dead Scared, Just Bite and Copy Cat for Badger Learning; and a nine book series for Rising Stars called Space Hoppers.
My involvement with the National Literacy Trust continued when I was invited – along with many other fantastic children’s authors and illustrators – to entertain children on board a traveling London Bus and have tea at Clarence House with the Duchess of Cornwall to celebrate her patronage of the National Young Reader Programme. I also helped out with the organisation’s Premier League Reading Scheme.
Walker Books took another series from me – six books this time, about Fangs: Vampire Spy…
Then, in 2012, my persistent pitching to BBC Books finally paid off when I was commissioned to write a Doctor Who novel to help celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary the following year. Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow was published in April 2013. As a result of this book, I was invited to the London Sci-Fi Festival to talk about writing for the Doctor alongside three fantastic fellow Who authors – Jenny Colgan, Paul Cornell, and my childhood hero, Terrance Dicks!
At the time of writing, I have written almost 70 books which either have been or will be published. You can find out more about them here: www.tommydonbavand.com/books
But, the writing didn’t stop there. I rattled the metal round things once again last year and began pitching ideas to my favourite childhood comic, The Beano. Before long, I was writing the occasional strip – and now, I provide the weekly adventures for my those lovable ruffians, The Bash Street Kids! You could say I’ve almost come full circle!
So, here we are in 2015 as I set up the Step by Step Writer website in order to provide ebooks, courses, personal critiques and more to help YOU do what I’ve done – minus all the mistakes I made along the way!
Remember – if I can do it, then so can you!
30th January, 2015
2014. It’s been an odd year for me. Good news and bad news. No, let’s be honest… VERY good news, and some bad news. But – for some reason – the bad news seems to have affected me more. Why? I’ve no idea. Let’s take a look…
At the beginning of the year, the final two books in my Fangs: Vampire Spy series were published by Walker Books – over two years later than the originally agreed date.
I won’t go into details, other than to say writing Fangs wasn’t easy for many reasons. I LOVE this series and we managed to garner some great publicity but, by the time the books came out, I’d simply lost my loyal Scream Street readership to other authors (as is only right – I can’t expect them to hang around when publication date after publication date is changed).
So, while I’m very proud of these books, they never really found a foothold, or the audience they deserved. They are, however, VERY funny – and I urge you to seek them out.
In other good news, I continued to write for the wonderful people at Badger Learning. Following my two stories aimed at younger girls and my first two graphic novels, I continued to contribute to their excellent Teen Reads series…
I’m very proud to be writing for such a savvy and reader-aware publisher, and I hope to continue to do so into 2015 and beyond.
Publishing opportunities for reluctant readers continued as Rising Stars bought and published my nine-book space adventure series, Space Hoppers…
With each story set on one of the nine planets in the solar system (yes, including Pluto!), Space Hoppers tells the tale of a galaxy run by kids, where teams of detectives hunt down a criminal adult known only as The Geezer. Great fun – and I got to sign 200 copies of the first title – Mudmen of Mars – at the TES SEN Show in London.
Away from books, I joined the team at the UK’s top weekly comic – The Beano – as the writer of The Bash Street Kids! If there was any way I could go back and tell the ten year old me that this would happen – he’d faint!
The adventures continue this very week, when I bring the kids’ pet dogs back into the main strip. Yes, The Bash Street Pups are back! All of which pales into insignificance to the email I received this week from David Sutherland – the incredible artist who has drawn The Bash Street Kids since FIVE YEARS BEFORE I WAS EVEN BORN to say how much he enjoys turning my scripts into fully realised adventures for the kids! Happy writer!
I’m proud to announce that I became the writer-in-residence at Water Primary School, here is Rossendale, Lancashire.
I visit the school at least once a month to teach creative writing, inspire reading for pleasure and encourage interest in poetry, prose, script formats and more.
Yet, after all that – none of it compares to the biggest news of all (no picture for this bit, I’m afraid. I have them, but I’m simply not allowed to share…) Scream Street – my 13 book series for Walker Books, Candlewick Press and 13 other foreign language publishers around the world – finally went into production as a TV show.
I’ve been involved in production meetings, I’m writing for the series, and I’ve visited the set to see the recording in action – and it is amazing! Trust me, the wait is worth it, and when Scream Street hits your TV screen sometime in the future, you’ll understand why.
But – of course – this is all just work, and the greatest joy came from the birth of my niece, Eliza!
The first child of my brother, Bryan, and his wife Bridget – Eliza is an irrepressible spirit with an amazing sense of humour. What a cracker! I’m very proud to be her uncle!
My own family continues to shine… Arran is now choosing is ‘A’ levels, while Sam enjoys his year three work on topics such as Frozen Planet and beyond…
So, what is it exactly that makes me feel that 2014 WASN’T a good year…?
I was ill, for one – and spent two, separate weeks in hospital with pneumonia…
…and I’m writing this after spending the week between Christmas and New Year in bed with flu. My health really hasn’t been good this year, and I’ve been forced to cancel a number of author events as a result.
But, I’ll get better – just as I did earlier in the year. Then, I went on to visit dozens of schools, write many books, devise numerous adventures for The Bash Street Kids – and still find time to be a husband to Kirsty, and a dad to Arran and Sam. That beats rejected book series, lost opportunities and soured business relationships hands down.
Hmmm… Maybe 2014 wasn’t such a bad year, after all…
Bring on 2015!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m now the Writer-in-Residence at Water Primary School in Lancashire!
I will be visiting the school at least once a month to teach creative writing, inspire a love of reading, and to help the pupils create their own eBook of original stories!
Take a look at what the Lancashire Telegraph had to say about my appointment, here: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/11499413.display/
So sorry for the radio silence – I’ve been unwell again!
Yes – in what now appears to be an annual event, I’ve been in Blackburn Hospital, suffering from pneumonia. I even took a selfie for you to enjoy…
I’m now back home and on the mend, although I’m having to cancel my final five school events of the year (apologies to everyone concerned; I hope I can make it up to you sometime). I’m resting up, and will be back to work soon.