Interview with David Almond

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By Huw Thomas — headteacher and writer

David Almond reveals how he dreamed up the touching story, My Dad’s a Birdman

David Almond

David Almond – author of My Dad’s a Birdman

A lovely, hopeful and bizarre story. Can you tell us how you dreamed it up?

It started life as a play. It was commissioned by the Young Vic. They wanted a piece for younger children to play in the studio while Skellig was on in the main house. I was asked to write the new play using some ‘Skelligy’ themes. So I scribbled and doodled and wondered and along came Jackie Crow tying wings to his back, and his daughter Lizzie, and Auntie Doreen and her dumplings and Mr Mint the headteacher, and the Great Human Bird Competition. The play was great fun, and quite a hit. Afterwards, I thought about turning it into a picture book, but it wouldn’t work. I put the script aside and got on with writing my novel, CLAY (Hodder, £5.99 PB), which took a couple of years. When I’d finished the novel, I took out the script again, wrote the first sentence – ‘An ordinary spring morning in 12 Lark Lane’ – and the story flared in to new life. I wrote it really fast – just four days for the first draft – and the form, a short novel, felt dead right. As I wrote, I knew it’d work really well with illustrations. When I talked about it with the people at Walker Books, we considered a few possibilities. Then Polly Dunbar was mentioned, and we knew she’d be perfect. And she is. Her illustrations are wonderful, just right for this story.

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