Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival: Andy Stanton

The award-winning novel, ‘You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!”, is celebrating its tenth year of publication, and author, Andy Stanton, is attending the Cardiff Children’s Lit Fest on the 25th March to celebrate.

His well-loved children’s book about a very nasty old man, Mr Gum, who terrorises the small town of Lamonic Bibber, has been compared to the brilliance of Welsh literary legend, Roald Dahl. In Andy’s novel, a furry wobbler of a dog is faced with an awful fate at the hands of an evil butcher, and the monstrous Mr Gum, it’s up to a little girl named Polly to save the day.

Have you ever met a real-life Mr Gum, who hates children and fun? Thankfully no. He exists mostly in my head. I used to say that I’d based him on my dad, which is totally un true… he wasn’t happy about that…

If you were a character in Lamonic Bibber, who would you be? Weirdly I’d be Polly, and not because I like to wear dresses. She is everything I’d like to be, she knows her own mind, and she has very cool trainers.

How did you come up with the town name? I like to make up words and put nonsense syllables together. Years ago, before I wrote Mr Gum, I went and saw a really bad film, and I hated it so much that afterwards I was so stuck for words I said “that was so…that was so… lamonic bibber!” Now I refer to anything that’s a load of rubbish as lamonic bibber. So, that’s my own secret joke- that the town in the book is a load of rubbish.

What’s the funniest thing a child has asked you upon meeting you? There’s a few actually. But a kid once got the front of the book signing queue, got to me and said “you’re my favourite author!” And then he cocked his head and said “actually… top 3

What’s the most mischief you got up to as a child? I was Bart Simpson as a child. My naughtiest moment though was when I weed off a hotel balcony to impress my friend, and it hit one of the guests a few floors down on the head.  

Do you believe there’s an age cap on toilet humour? Ha! God no! People always think there’s a big difference between kids and adult humour, but we have a lot in common. I think used sparingly, toilet humour is a fine tool.

In your book, Mr Gum steals a skateboard from a child, rides it terribly for a few yards before smashing the board in annoyance. Can you ride a skateboard? No, I’m terrible. But I’d never steal a skateboard from a kid, or smash it after. I live and let live when it comes to skateboards and everything else.

You’ve had many vocations over the years, including a film script reader, a cartoonist, and an NHS lackey, what job would you love to have a go at? It’s not really a job, but I’d love to be a Rockstar. I thought I wanted to be a chef, but really I just want people to cook the food then let me eat it.

You refer to the “Young Ones” as an enormous influence on your books, which “Young Ones” character would you be? Rick. Because he’s like a firework show on legs. He was my completely inappropriate idol when I was 8. I put a lot of his anarchy into Mr Gum.

What was your favourite book as a child? The 18th Emergency by Betsy Cromer Byars.

What are you currently reading? Early Stephen King stuff at the moment. He really knows how to grab people by the scruff of the neck and make them keep reading.

It’s been 10 years since the first publication of Mr Gum, where do you see yourself in 10 years? It could be anywhere. I could be living in America, or France… or a ditch.

You were awarded the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2008, who would you give the award to? Cressida Cowell.

You’ve just flown back from Rome, what were you doing over there? I was talking at a school and teaching kids about writing, and ran a workshop for them. I also saw how much pizza and pasta I could eat in two days- it turns out a lot.