David Almond Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

David Almond

David Almond

How to pronounce David Almond: To quote the author, his name is pronounced "just like the nut"

An interview with David Almond

David Almond explains his impetus for writing My Dad's a Birdman; and the truth behind the fiction of his 2015 novel, The Tightrope Walkers

Dear Reader

The Tightrope Walkers has lots of connections with my own life. I lived in a house rather like Dom's when I was a boy. My own father fought in Burma during World War II, just like Dom's. Miss Fagan, Dom's first teacher, is based on my own first teacher. I remember her kindness, and the beautiful way she shaped letters and words with chalk on the blackboard.

I knew many people who worked in the shipyards that lined the banks of the river Tyne in the '60s and '70s. I worked in a shipyard myself for a couple of summers when I was a student. I cleaned tanks, just like Dom, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. We had a tramp in our town, rather like Jack Law, and he was a romantic figure to me, living his life of nonmaterialistic freedom in the hills above town. The bookshop, Ultima Thule, was a real place, and Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti really did visit and read. And I partied on the beautiful Northumbrian beaches, and listened to Joni Mitchell, and grew my hair, and dreamed of California and love and peace.

The book is fiction, of course: a merging of memory and imagination, truth and lies. I never knew a boy quite like Vincent McAlinden, but he does have similarities to some real people, and of course to elements of my growing self. I never knew a Holly Stroud, but again, she has elements of girls that I admired and maybe loved.

The book was often very difficult to write. Sometimes the words came fast and true. At other times, making the book was like making a ship, putting it together rivet by rivet, weld by weld. As I wrote, I entered the world of the '60s and '70s, and felt the harshness of the shipyard world, its toughness and strange beauty. I felt the joy of partying by the cold North Sea with people I loved. At times I felt like a teenager again, yearning for life and freedom, learning about myself, about books, about language, about the weird connections between hate and love, violence and peace. I grew close to my characters. They felt very real to me. I feel that their lives continue somewhere, now that the book is done, and I wish them well.

A letter to readers from David Almond, about My Dad's a Birdman

Dear Reader,

Most of my work has been for older children, but one of the joys of being a children's writer is the variety of possible forms: long novels, short novels, chapter books, picture books, poetry, plays... The children's book world is a place of great creativity and experimentation, and I like to keep moving forward, to take up new challenges.

My Dad's a Birdman began life as a play commissioned by the Young Vic Theatre, in London. I started doodling and scribbling, and images of wings and flying were everywhere on the page. Jackie Crow appeared, strapping homemade wings to his back, and his daughter, Lizzie, and dumpy Auntie Doreen with her dumplings, and Mr. Mint and Mr. Poop, and pretty soon there was a Great Human Bird Competition going on, and the script was leaping and flying into life. I loved writing for a younger audience, loved the process of collaborating with a director, a designer, a company of actors.

After, I put the script in a drawer, but the story stayed with me, and soon I found myself scribbling again: An ordinary spring morning at 12 Lark Lane... Within four days, I had the first draft. It helped to imagine my eight-year-old daughter, Freya, as reader, and to begin to think of it as an illustrated book. The right artist would bring her or his own vision to the story, just as my collaborators in the theatre had done before. But which artist? "Polly Dunbar!" the publisher said, and since I already knew Polly's wonderful work, I crossed my fingers. Now I can no longer imagine my story without it.

There is some darkness in My Dad's a Birdman, of course, but I think I found a way to make the story joyous, optimistic, life-affirming.

I'm proud of it, and when I look at it, with Polly's lovely leaping illustrations, it makes me feel very happy.

I do hope you enjoy it.

All best wishes,


Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Your Duck Is My Duck
    Your Duck Is My Duck
    by Deborah Eisenberg
    In this collection of six short stories, Deborah Eisenberg presents characters confronting limits ...
  • Book Jacket: Unsheltered
    by Barbara Kingsolver
    Willa Knox's house is falling down. She recently inherited a Victorian residence in Vineland, ...
  • Book Jacket: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
    Ya Ta, the main character in Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, ...
  • Book Jacket: The Boneless Mercies
    The Boneless Mercies
    by April Genevieve Tucholke
    The Mercies are assassins, part of a long tradition of killers who serve to end the suffering of the...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Winter Soldier
by Daniel Mason

A story of war and medicine, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and of the mistakes we make.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kennedy Debutante
    by Kerri Maher

    "An engrossing tale of family, faith and love in the life of one remarkable woman." - Booklist
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Gone So Long

Andre Dubus III's First Novel in a Decade

A masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

G H E Rope A H Will H H

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.