David Almond

Where does an idea to write a book come from? David Almond, author of part novel/part graphic novel The Savage shares some of his innermost thoughts with us about how his book was put together...

Some stories seem to come from nowhere. They have a life of their own. They seem to write themselves. It was like that with The Savage. I wrote the first line, ‘You won’t believe this but it’s true’, and off it went. Here was Blue with his mum and sister, all of them trying to recover from the death of blue’s dad. Here was the bully, Hopper. Here was Blue’s misspelt story about the savage kid in Burgess Woods. And here was the savage himself, coming to life in the real world.

It was a lovely fluent book to write. It was great to write again for a younger audience, as I did with My Dad’s a Birdman. My own daughter is ten. She was eight as I wrote it. When I was editing the story, she helped me with the misspellings. “No, Dad,” she’d say, “He wouldn’t spell it wrong like that. He’d spell it wrong like this!”

Right from the start, I knew the book should be illustrated. I really believe that there’s a need for powerfully illustrated fiction for 8/9/10 year olds. I love the way words and images can work together on the page. I love the way children’s writers and artists can experiment and play with the appearance of the page, with the nature of the book itself. We have so many opportunities that are denied to ‘adult’ writers. It’s because of our readers, of course. Children have fluent and flexible imaginations. They know that stories can come in many different forms.

When I finished the writing, I thought, “Oh the perfect collaborator would be
Dave McKean!” The lovely people at Walker Books said exactly the same. I was thrilled when Dave loved the story. I nearly fell down with amazement and delight when his art work appeared. His work is more than illustration. It recreates and transfigures the story. He has brought a wonderfully appropriate savage beauty to it all. Now I can’t imagine the book existing in any other way.