Archive for Personal
My blog is four years old today – which means I’m now 44.
I read back through some of my old posts this morning. It’s been a hectic four years. In that time, I’ve had 18 books published and signed deals to write many more. Scream Street has been published all around the world, and gone into development as a TV series. I was made the first Reading is Fundamental Ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, and run hundreds of sessions in schools, libraries, bookshops and festivals to promote the love of reading and writing. The picture above shows me holding the Thank You card from just one of those schools, Alder Grange Community School.
And yes, I know how lucky I am!
On Friday 6th October 2006, I spent the day running creative writing workshops at a school in Wallsend, Newcastle. I’d quit my day job as operations director for a children’s touring theatre company a week earlier to become a full-time writer, and was throwing myself into school visits as a way to earn some money. At that point, I’d had four non-fiction books published (all out of print by then), I wrote regular columns and articles for a number of teaching and parenting magazines, and I’d just been accepted as a writer on the forthcoming Too Ghoul For School series from Egmont Press.
As I was driving home from my school visit, I began to brainstorm ideas for a series of books of my own. I knew I wanted to write something about haunted houses, and it occurred to me that whenever you saw a haunted house in a movie, cartoon or book – it always stood by itself, either at the top of an inaccessible hill, or in a large plot of land. You never saw a haunted house with a next door neighbour. Or, even better, a whole street of haunted houses.
A whole street of haunted houses!
The name Scream Street popped into my head, and I started making notes as soon as I got home.
Four days later, on 10th October, I had to travel to London for a couple of meetings. One was with Helen and Bec – the publisher and editor of the Too Ghoul for School series, and the other was with a literary agent – Penny Holroyde of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. My wife, Kirsty, and son Sam – then just 10 days old – came to London with me.
I had a great time chatting to Helen and Bec (although Sam stole a lot of the limelight!), and then went on to my meeting with Penny. She had read a novel I had submitted to her – a science fiction comedy called Soppy Susans from Space – and I really hoped she liked it.
But, she did ask me if I had any other ideas. Yes, I said – how about a street full of haunted houses? Luke, who finds himself transforming into a werewolf, is moved to Scream Street by the government and has to find a way to take his unhappy parents back home.
This idea she did like and, a few days later, I had an agent.
I wrote the first draft of Fang of the Vampire (then simply called Scream Street) in around 6 weeks, and sent it to Penny for her thoughts. She gave me some wonderful editorial notes, and I set about writing a second, and eventually a third draft. By the spring of 2007 the series was ready to submit!
Originally a six-book series (and later increased to twelve, then thirteen adventures), Scream Street was taken on by Walker Books with the first four titles – Fang of the Vampire, Blood of the Witch, Heart of the Mummy and Flesh of the Zombie – being published on 4th October 2008. Exactly two years after I first had the idea.
Three years after that – 6th October 2011 – and the thirteenth and final book in the series, Flame of the Dragon, is published today.
It’s been an incredible ride, and I have so many people to thank…
Emma Lidbury – my amazing editor, who has stuck with me through bad characters and bizarre plots – and sometimes let me get away with writing in gratuitous body parts if I thought it was funny!
Gill Evans – my wonderful publisher, and the person at Walker Books who first saw the potential in Scream Street.
Lily Bernard – the brilliant illustrator for Scream Street, who always got what I was trying to say and managed to put even the most unusual scenes into pictures.
Patrick Insole – the faultless designer for the first 10 Scream Street books before he moved on to pastures new. The grubby pages, crawling spiders and claw marks that accompany the text are all his work.
Jacky Paynter and Jack Noel – the amazing designers who took on Scream Street for the final four titles and remained patient when I repeatedly asked for layered cover images so I could make desktop wallpapers.
Caroline Muir and her superb foreign rights sales team for their tireless efforts to sell Scream Street into 13 territories, and counting!
Jane Harris – sales director extraordinaire who has pushed Scream Street as much as anyone possibly could.
Helen McAleer – Walker’s managing director, Scream Street advocate and constant friendly face whenever I visit the office.
Alice Burden, Eve Warlow, Rebecca Harper, Sean Moss, Jo Humphreys-Davies, Rekha Patel, Sophie Burdess, Elise Burns, Angelica Dawidowicz, Corinne Gotch, Jan Gryzinski, Connor Hackett, Anya Hollis, Fiona MacDonald, Julia Posen, Ruth Maurice, Helen Prentice, Sophie Stott, Colette Whitehouse, David Lloyd and EVERYONE I’ve missed out from Walker Books (sorry!), past and present, who have helped me develop, write, promote and sell Scream Street.
Everyone at Candlewick Press – my US publishers – for their help in getting America to love Scream Street.
Everyone at Walker Books Australia – they could not be more enthusiastic about Scream Street.
The countless booksellers, librarians and teachers who have believed in Scream Street and my quest to get kids reading over the past five years. You have all been amazing!
My thousands of readers and their parents for accompanying my characters on their adventures. They would be nothing without you all.
Penny Holroyde for her continual support, advice and friendship. I couldn’t have done any of this without her.
Kirsty, Arran and Sam for their love and support, always. I’m doing this for you guys.
Luke Watson, Resus Negative and Cleo Farr – in my thoughts every day for the past five years.
And, finally, my Mum and Dad. I’ve always tried to make you proud of my achievements, and wish with all my heart that Mum was still here to see them.
Tommy Donbavand, 6th October 2011
Check out the latest edition of The Terror Times here: http://www.tommydonbavand.com/terror-times/tt0911/
This month there’s advice for new writers, videos from Scream Street fans, a brand new short story – and much more!
What a scream!
How do you make a great picture book even better? Simple – you bring it to life!
Hugless Douglas, written and illustrated by one of my fellow Trapped By Monsters inmates, David Melling, is now an app for the iPad and iPhone. You can read the book – now with animated illustrations – yourself, or listen to a reading by QI favourite and comedian, Alan Davies. There are tons of hidden surprises you can activate by touching different areas of the screen, a gallery of hug types, and even a hug-themed noughts and crosses game!
I spent a very happy hour with my 4 year old son exploring the app. We both loved it, and I think you will, too. To find out more, watch the trailer below, or check out Hugless Douglas at the App Store.
Recently, in a break from writing, I posted these tweets on Twitter:
The idea of removing a single letter from a book title to create a new one had occurred to me about half an hour earlier and, before long, other suggestions were popping up, such as:
Lice in Wonderland
The Hunt for Ed October
I then went back to work, thinking the idea might make a fun hashtag game for some of my followers on Twitter. Was I in for a surprise…
Over 36 hours later, the game is still being played! Thousands of tweets have been posted with the hashtag #bookswithalettermissing, and the game is trending all over the world…
Click here to view the map live and see if your city is trending: http://trendsmap.com/topic/%23bookswithalettermissing
Publishers Weekly even posted a blog piece about it!
It just goes to show the power of social networking and what can happen to a single idea. Now, if I could just find a way to promote my books like that…
Update: 3rd August, 7.45pm…
The #bookswithalettermissing game continues! Here are some of my favourites so far…
Of Mice and Me
One with the Wind
Winnie the Poo
The Lovey Bones
The French Lieutenant’s Oman
The Spy Who Loved M
A Brief History of Tim
The DaVinci Cod
War and Pace
Fear and Lathing in Las Vegas
The Ion Man
Far from the Madding Crow
The Tree Muskateers
Our Mutual Fiend
The Grape of Wrath
The Picture of Dorian Gay
A Clockwork Range
Lord of the Rigs
As You Like I
Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Ears
The Tale of Peter Rabbi
Lady Chatterly’s Over
Lord of the Lies
Goodnight Miser Tom
Three Men in a Boa
Where Angels Fear To Read
The Itches of Eastwick
The Lie of Pi
Lay of the Lan
Water or Elephants
His Ark Materials
Complete Fairy Ales
Ar and Peace
The Win in the Willows
The Mayo of Casterbridge
A Roo with a View
The Andromeda Train
The Great Rain Robbery
The Tipping Pint
The Road to Wigan Pie
A Brie History of Time
Rebel Without a Case
A Christmas Carl
Right on Rock
Robin on Crusoe
To Kill a Mocking Bid
Ill on the Floss
The Olden Compass
Complete Woks of William Shakespeare
The Lion, The Itch and The Wardrobe
Turn of the Crew
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Net
The Cacher in the Rye
Five Children and I
Lives of the Most Eminent English Pets
Old Comfort Farm
The Interpretation of Drams
The Spy Who Came In from the Cod
The Unbearable Lightness of Bing
Ma and Superman
Sons and Overs
Tarzan of the Apps
Far from the Adding Crowd
The Life of P
The Velveteen Rabbi
The Men Who Stare at Oats
The Invisible Ma
A Stud in Scarlet
Fan of the Vampire
Heat of the Mummy
Attack of the Rolls
Travels with my Ant
Do you have a favourite? Add it to the comments thread below!
Do you want to be a writer?
Read that sentence again. I didn’t ask if you’d LIKE to be a writer. I asked if you WANT to be a writer.
Do you NEED it?
Because if you don’t, it won’t happen. Sorry.
Not too long ago, I was approached at a school event by a teacher who asked how to get published. I get asked this question a lot, and I’m certain that most published authors do as well. I advised this teacher that the only way to get published is to read a lot, and to write a lot. Yes, she countered – but how can I write a lot when I have a full-time job? I explained that I had a full-time job when I started writing myself. The trick is to MAKE the time. Perhaps you get up an hour earlier, or give up watching TV in the evening.
Oh no, she said. I could never give up watching TV.
Then, you’ll never be published.
I didn’t say it, of course – but it’s true. If you want to be a writer, you have to put the work in. If you have a job as well, you have to make the time to write. There’s no magic button, no short-cut, no person to contact who will instantly make your wishes come true.
You write, submit, get rejected, write, submit, get rejected, write, submit, get rejected, write, submit – write, submit – write, submit… You write and submit until the person who reads your submission – be it an editor, publisher, producer or agent – has absolutely no reason to reject you. Then – you’re a writer.
Does that sound harsh? Apologies if it does – but that’s how I did it. I have two filing cabinets full of rejection letters – some from my current publishers – dating back to 1986. 25 years ago. In that time I’ve had an entire acting career, worked as an electrical goods salesman, dealt with water rates accounts for customers in Hampshire, fixed computers on a tech support line, pulled pints behind many a bar – and I wrote. Every day, I wrote.
Every. Single. Day.
It didn’t matter that I had a full-time job, that I was tired, that I had other commitments. I wrote. I submitted. I was rejected. Until someone said yes.
I’ve just finished writing my 29th book that is or will be published. My Scream Street series is published in 13 countries, and we’re now working on a TV series based on the books. I have a meeting in a week or so about my next series of books. I have another TV script being considered by a major UK production company. I’m writing short stories and articles for several newspapers and magazines. I’ve been asked to pitch ideas to a computer games company.
I’m not saying any of that to boast – just to prove that it can be done. I had no industry contacts, no doorway into publishing, no secret password. I just never gave up. You can have exactly the same – and more. You just have to do the work. Put the hours in. WRITE.
I’m incredibly lucky to count at least 30 professional writers and authors among my friends, and I’ve met them all as a result of working as a writer. They’re all great people, and they ALL have one thing in common… They WANTED to be a writer, and let nothing stop them from achieving that goal.
So, how about you? Do you want to be a writer? Or, do you WANT to be a writer?
The July edition of The Terror Times is out now…
It’s a bumper edition with…
* An excerpt from Scream Street 10: Rampage of the Goblins!
* The winner of my short story writing contest!
* A video of me dressed as a character from Scream Street 12: Secret
of the Changeling!
* A free chapter from Boredom Busters – a book I’ve published myself!
* A sneak peek at the cover for the final Scream Street book – Scream
Street 13: Flame of the Dragon!
* A brand new Scream Street short story called Eat The Meatles!
* Plus much, much more!
So, what are you waiting for? Dive in to the latest edition of The
Terror Times here:
What a scream!