All About David Wood - Interviews
My ambition was always to work in the theatre. When I was ten, I started doing puppet shows and learning magic tricks. In my teens, I did cabaret with a dance band, acted in school and local plays, and went on drama courses. At Oxford University, where I read English, I spent most of my time acting in plays, and writing and performing songs. I scraped through my degree and became an actor/writer. Looking back, it was almost inevitable that I would concentrate on writing and performing for children, because my early magic shows at birthday parties and in church halls taught me lots about how children, en masse, react - techniques I have used ever since in my plays and books.
As an adult
As an actor I was lucky enough to star with Malcolm MacDowell in the film If..., with Shelley Winters on TV in The Vamp, and opposite Sir Michael Redgrave on stage in Voyage Round My Father. But children's theatre hijacked me after I wrote my first play for children in 1967. Since then, I have written another sixty and they are, I'm happy to say, performed all over the world. The Gingerbread Man is the most popular. I have also adapted six Roald Dahl books for the stage, plus Dick King-Smith's The Sheep-pig (as Babe), Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden and Philip Pullman's Clockwork. Writing books for children has been a very pleasant additional activity, mainly in association with Richard Fowler, the illustrator and paper engineer. For Walker Books, I wrote Sidney the Monster, which won the Nottingham Children's Book of the Year award.
As an artist
I am not a full-time writer because producing and directing plays, performing in theatres and visiting schools takes up time. But when I write, I have to force myself to keep at it! I have a very nice office, but very rarely write in it! The kitchen table works better! Or my mother-in-law's house by the sea in Cornwall. Or room 208 of a south coast hotel, where I retreat when I have an urgent deadline! I write in longhand on the back of old scripts and letters - I never use new paper till the story or play is typed up. I can't use a typewriter or a computer keyboard because the book looks too finished too soon! But I do love using e-mail! Sidney the Monster was written during a sleepless night in which the line "Where there was once a monster called Sidney" came into my head and wouldn't go away. I delivered it to Walker Books at 9 am the same morning and they accepted it for publication at midday! Oh, if it was always that simple!
Things you didn't know about David Wood
- I worked as a bingo caller in Bognor (before going to university).
- I collect old milk bottles with advertisements on.
- I am chair of Action for Children's Arts, which promotes and celebrates arts for children.
- When my family go on holiday, we take Tilly the tortoise - aged approximately eighty.
- I appeared as a magician on TV's Jim'll Fix It.
- My favourite foods are crab and American pancakes - but not together.
- I once won a talent competition singing a song in French, calling myself Claude DuBois.
- At Oxford, I sang songs with Adele Weston, who became Adele Geras, a famous children's writer.
- I am partly deaf in my right ear, from firing a sten gun in the film If ... in 1967.
- Shopping for clothes makes me really cross.
first published on the Walker Books website