“Harry Potter Changed My Life,” says McFly-Star-Turned Author Tom Fletcher
McFly songwriter Tom Fletcher credits JK Rowling with kick-starting his parallel career as a children’s author…
- by Tom Fletcher
One of my earliest memories is being at school, in a nursery class, looking at the alphabet display around the top of the walls and learning the letters.
By that point, though, books were already a huge part of my life – my parents read to me all the time, and my dad would make up stories, about a dragon who lived on Mount Snowdon (which was bizarrely specific, now I think about it), and a little boy.
Later, when my sister arrived on the scene, a little girl was added to the narrative.
Dr Seuss was a particular favourite, for all of us – so engaging, fascinating and fun; I don’t know of any other series of books that uses words in such a skilful, playful way.
That said, interestingly, another favourite for me was The Snowman, which has no words at all. I suppose the magic there was the way my mum or dad would bring the story to life. Our home was always full of storytelling and imagination.
When I got to primary school, the academic side wasn’t a problem – but fitting in was, and I was bullied a bit. I wasn’t into the stereotypical ‘boy’ stuff, like sports – I enjoyed singing, dancing, playing the guitar and performing.
I was quite a sensitive kid, I suppose, and very teary, which must have made life quite difficult for my parents. I used to spend lunchtimes sitting with the teachers, because I couldn’t handle the playground.
At the age of 11, though, I started at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and for the first time, it felt like I was being taught by people who genuinely ‘got’ me.
One in particular, Ray Lamb, was a huge influence. He was one of those educators who would always teach you more than you thought you were going to learn, somehow managing to weave science, engineering and motorcycle maintenance into a singing lesson, effortlessly.
You didn’t mess around with him – you didn’t want to; he was teaching you so much.
I did read independently as a child, but I wouldn’t say I actively got pleasure out of it, really. By the age of nine I’d started acting professionally, and that was my life – I loved it. So I would be reading scripts, or texts for research, but not for its own sake.
Then, when I was about 13, the first Harry Potter came out – and it changed my life. For the first time, I got completely lost in a book – I wanted to live in that world, and I couldn’t wait for the next instalment in the series.
When Deathly Hallows was due to be released, McFly were at the height of our career; we played a sold-out gig at the Manchester Arena, then after the show I put on a hooded coat and queued with all the other Rowling fans outside the store where I’d pre-ordered the book, before taking it straight back to the hotel to get started on it… talk about rock and roll!
Writing, on the other hand, is something that I’ve always enjoyed; stories, shows, songs, screenplays – it’s just always felt natural to me to write down my ideas.
And when you’re in a band and touring, there is so much down time in hotel rooms that you have to find ways to occupy yourself; that’s pretty much why I started writing children’s books in the first place.
My stories are silly on the surface, but they deal with really serious issues, too. That’s just how I write – and actually, also what I like to read.
In The Christmasaurus there’s the death of a parent, as well as bullying and disability, for example. And I think that’s fine; we should talk about those issues with kids, and in my experience even very young children can absolutely cope with having the silly and the serious in a single narrative (although I suspect their parents sometimes struggle with the concept).
My own boys are still very young, although the older of them, who is three and a half, is already starting to recognise words and even write them, which is an amazing and fascinating experience as a parent.
We share reading and stories with them all the time, and my hope for them is that one day they can fall in love with a book, like I did with Harry Potter; a book that transforms their life, opens their eyes, and takes them to a different universe.
Nothing can do that like a book, because it requires your own imagination to make it happen – and that’s an incredible, powerful, inspiring thing. It makes you want to create something of your own.