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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tyne > People > Profiles > David Almond

David Almond in the shed where he writes

David's stories are read worldwide

David Almond

Tyneside-born author David Almond has achieved huge success with his stories which have brought the North East, and particularly Felling, to a worldwide audience.

David Almond is itching to lock himself away in the shed at the bottom of his garden and write.

He is bursting with ideas for future books but for the moment his desire to write is being thwarted by a huge swell of interest in his work.

In the final months of 2008 a film of his book Skellig was shot in Cardiff, the Skellig opera was premiered at The Sage Gateshead and an exhibition based on his work ran at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books, in Newcastle.

It means his time has been consumed by visiting film sets and giving talks and interviews.

Not that he is complaining. He is delighted with the amount of attention his work has sparked and the "extraordinary" opportunities that it has brought.

David Almond outside the shed where he writes

David Almond outside the shed where he writes

But he said: "It's like I want another David Almond to do all this stuff and I can just go down to the shed."

Fantastic experiences

David had written for many years but it was when he switched his attention to writing for young people that things really changed.

Skellig, which was published in 1998, won prestigious awards and shot him to prominence and since then he has written several more children's novels, some of which have also been awarded.

"So many things have happened in the space of those 10 years," he told BBC Tyne in September 2008.

"The thing to remember I think is that you have to keep on doing it and never get to a point where you want to reflect too much. It's brought huge benefits. It's fantastic."

David grew up in Felling, in Gateshead, and it features heavily in his work although initially he didn't want it to.

"For a long time I didn't want to use it. I was wary of the danger of being seen as too parochial and too narrow. I fought against it," he said.

"But ordinary places are the kind of locations of extraordinary events."

"In a life you have a certain amount of time and you have to make sure you get as much done as you can."

David Almond

He added: "I find when I walk through Felling it is a bit like walking through my own imagination."

Skellig film

David said one of his greatest sources of pride is that his stories have been published around the world, for example Skellig is available in dozens of languages.

He said he hoped that was helping to challenge people's prejudices about regional writing which he believes is sometimes dismissed as "nice little local, funny stories that appeal to people down the street".

He said: "What I have done is to take stories that appeal to people down the street but appeal to the wider world.

"When my books come out it feels like a real achievement."

His work was launched to an even wider audience when the Skellig film was released in April 2009. It stars Tim Roth, Kelly MacDonald and John Simm and was shown on Sky on before being released in cinemas.

David lives in Northumberland and said there are things he loves and things he hates about the North East but he believes that tension has been a creative thing for him.

One of the things he dislikes is that he believes the North East occasionally seems inward-looking but he loves the closeness of the countryside and the city and the landscape and that it is scarred by industry.

He has supported Newcastle United for 50 years and describes that as "crackers and romantic".

Tim Roth. Photo: Getty Images

Tim Roth plays Skellig in the film

Engaging young people

One of the things David is passionate about is engaging young people in the artistic process of writing.

He does lots of workshops and readings and an exhibition based on his work ran at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books, from October 2 to November 2 2008.

David wanted to ensure the exhibition was not static and children were invited to take part, contribute to a story and take a look at his notebooks. There was also a map of Felling with fragments from his stories on it.

He believes the key to engaging young people is to break down the barriers between the sometimes long and messy artistic process and the finished product of the book.

And he said the importance of places like Seven Stories is that "kids see ordinary people producing extraordinary books".

He said: "I hope that especially young people will see that the thing about a book is that it's a normal human activity. It is a process that they can become involved with themselves.

"I thought when I was a kid that a book had to be about earth-shattering things but they come from tiny little fragments and ordinary lives."

Great North Run

David was also commissioned to write for the Great North Run Cultural Programme in 2008 and his book Harry Miller's Run tells the story of a young boy taking part in the Junior North Run and his chance encounter with an old man with a story to tell.

David took part in the first three Great North Runs and loved them. He remembers the feeling of going over the final brow at Marsden to head towards the finish. He said he was delighted to be asked.

David Almond working

David said he has lots of ideas

He said: "It goes through all the places that I write about. It felt like a perfect project for me.

"A run is like a story - it goes from one place to the next place to the next place."

As far as the creative process goes for David, he has a wooden shed at the bottom of the garden of his Northumberland home with no telephone or e-mail where he goes to write.

When he is working on a project he works 9-5 days and once he is in the middle of a book he sets himself daily targets.

But with the amount of travel he does he frequently has to write on the move, like on board trains.

He always carries a notebook with him where he writes bits and pieces and ideas down.

His books start with what he calls a big mess and then he says they grow "as an organic thing".

He describes writing as a "lovely process" and said he has "so many ideas".

He said: "In a life you have a certain amount of time and you have to make sure you get as much done as you can."

last updated: 14/04/2009 at 14:30
created: 01/10/2008

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