Author Q&A - Andy Griffiths

First introducing himself to children’s literature with the launch Just Tricking!, young Andy Griffiths soon impressed the world with his unique creative humour that helped him gain a popularity and a large following. Now, as one of Australia’s most prominent children’s authors, Andy, together with illustrator Terry Denton, have collaborated on more than 33 bestselling books since 1997, and this number continues to grow.

Apart from the Just! series, Andy is also most notable for his Treehouse Series, which has been published in 35 countries and some of which have been adapted into several stage plays showcased at the Sydney Opera house, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the U.S.

As a husband, a father of two daughters and an owner of a one-eyed cat named Rudy, Andy finds inspiration from all aspects of his daily life: books, movies, music, the great outdoors, all in which help create the stories we all know and love. Before becoming a full-time author, he used to write short stories as an English teacher to amuse his students, later collecting them together and turning them into photocopied books, which eventually sparked the idea of writing more books.

In 2015, Andy was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for his outstanding contribution to the Australian children’s literature. While being a proud advocate for literacy, he is also an ambassador for The Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Pyjama Foundation, using his influence to help raise awareness.

Now that you have learned more about Andy and his amazing efforts, read our Q&A here to learn even more about him:

What was your favourite book series to write and why?

The Treehouse Series is where it all came together for myself and illustrator Terry Denton. We’d spent the previous fifteen years experimenting with every possible way to tell stories through a combination of pictures, cartoons, verse, short stories, novels, fake non-fiction, and learn-to-read texts and picture books. At the same time, we were also exploring many types of humour and its effects on our audiences (both positive and negative). The Treehouse series started off as a sort of tongue-in-cheek account of our lives living in a multi-level fantasy treehouse and trying to write books in the face of the many distractions that a treehouse offers. It blended the best of everything that we’d been doing to that point into a heavily illustrated long form narrative that was accessible to both emerging readers and detailed and complex enough to appeal to well-established readers, including their parents. It was a real thrill to figure out that first book and eleven books later we still haven’t exhausted the possibilities of the treehouse world—a world in which anything can and frequently does happen.

Where do you get the inspiration for your books? Do any of the books come from your own childhood experiences/memories? 

My abiding inspiration—and story-telling compass— is the feeling of wild freedom and imaginative abandon I experienced as a child when I read the books I loved. When I write a book I’m totally focussed on evoking that feeling in my younger readers so that they will learn to love reading and fall in love with books in the same way I did. In this process I draw inspiration from books and movies I love, childhood memories (especially embarrassing ones), objects I find in second hand stores, dreams, nightmares, travel and all day-to-day stuff that happens in real life. My radar is always on, and you never know when a useful idea might present itself. Having said that, the raw material that life brings is just raw material—during the writing process it will go through a process of exaggeration and fictionalisation to transform it into a truly interesting and captivating story. I have no hesitation in changing the facts to make a narrative more dramatically interesting.

How do you think your books have changed since releasing your first book ‘Just Tricking!’?

The humour and love of creative anarchy remains intact, but I think both Terry and I have got smarter and more skilful in delivering it in a way that appeals to a very wide readership both here and around the world. The Just! Series was pretty hardcore and frenetic, kind of like the punk rock I adore. I wince at how rough and ready many of the stories seem to me now, but I’m proud of how joyously unrepentant they are about their frequent lack of taste which, was of course, the point! (Hey, it was the 90s!). As the Just series went on, Terry and I began meeting every fortnight and attempting to learn how to write books together without stepping on each other’s toes. We wanted the drawings to influence the writing and the writing to influence the drawings to the point where they were genuine collaborations. Most of the time we really can’t say who came up with what. This learning process yielded at least half a dozen books before we hit on the Treehouse series. The anarchy is still present in the Treehouse books, but the friendship between the characters Terry, Andy and Jill (my wife, editor and co-writer in real life) provides an emotional safe space for the readers to take refuge in that wasn’t present in the early books. In a funny way, pulling back on the mayhem has allowed us to evoke it in a much more palatable—and of course heavily illustrated—way.

What do you find most challenging about being an author?

I guess the biggest challenge is to balance the time spent out in the world promoting and talking about the books with the long stretches of time at home necessary to write the books in the first place. Fortunately, on the introvert-extrovert scale I fall somewhere around the middle I’m an ambivert—I’m quite at home in my own company for long periods, but happy to come out and meet and entertain our readers when required. But it’s an ever-changing balancing act. The more successful the books, the more invitations that pour in and sometimes I have to be very strong in order to block out enough time to go as deeply into an imaginative writing period for as long as necessary. (I have to admit that the pandemic has helped restore the time at home in a dramatic, but very heavy-handed way!)

How did you feel when you won the Dromkeen Medal of Honour in 2015?

It was a welcome but completely unexpected acknowledgement of my passion for writing books that captivate children. Winning the hearts and minds of my young readers has always been more than enough reward in itself but joining the illustrious ranks of previous Dromkeen medal winners was an honour that I never saw coming. I’m still expecting the Dromkeen committee to get in touch and say, ‘Just Tricking!’.

It was a great honour to chat with Andy and to get to know more about the “behind the book” process that can never be overlooked. We’d like to give a big thank you to Andy for taking his precious time sharing with us the challenges he has faced and how he was able to overcome them along his career journey. We hope you find this Q&A helpful for your personal development and life in general.

Still curious about Andy Griffiths? Find out more here.

For more similar contents, follow us on social media to stay updated with all our latest updates and news. DM us your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!