Thursday, 3 February 2011

Jamie's Grizzly Tales

Jamie Rix, Writer, co director and co producer

GRIZZLY TALES – “How it started” by Jamie Rix

Anyone remember the book Struwwelpeter?  My mum had tried to get me to stop sucking my thumb for years. She’d tried Bitter Aloes, getting me to feed horses with my thumb strapped to a carrot and slamming my thumb in a car door. Anyway, nothing worked. So she bought me Struwwelpeter and made me read a story called The Story of Little Suck A Thumb. It was about a boy who would not stop sucking his thumb and had both his thumbs cut off by the Long Red-Legged Scissor Man. That story was brilliant. I had nightmares for weeks. When I hear that story now I can still feel the scissors cutting through my thumb bones. And I fell in love with the pictures. They were so matter of fact about death. And there was so much blood!

Ben Rix inspiration for The Spaghetti Man

Anyway, wind forward twenty years, and the first story that I ever wrote was called The Spaghetti Man. My eldest son, Ben, was just four and refused to eat whatever had been cooked for dinner. On holiday in France, the family (that’s me, Helen, Ben and Jack) drove past a shop that sold pasta. I stopped the car and looked at Ben. "If you don't eat your food tonight," I said to him, straight-faced, "I shall bring you back to the pasta factory tonight and the spaghetti man will turn you into lasagne. Then we'll eat you tomorrow for lunch." That night, Ben ate everything on his plate. Nothing I had done before prepared me for the thrill of watching children believe my stories. I never knew lying could be so much fun!
I wrote The Spaghetti Man up and sent it off to 22 publishers. One replied – the very lovely Pam Royds from Andre Deutsch – you always fall in love with your first editor. She didn’t exactly say “OK I’ll commission a book,” but she did say “write a load more stories like these and I’ll tell you when to stop.” I wrote another about a barber who cut out cheeky little children’s tongues called The Barber of Civil, and another called Dr Moribundus about a girl who skips school, and which shares a plotline with the second Hannibal Lecter film (NB – My story was first!). Dr Moribundus was based on me. Whenever I wanted to get off school, I told my mum I was sick and, lying in bed looking weak and feeble, I begged her for a cup of tea. When it arrived, I stirred the thermometer in the hot tea until the mercury was nicely warmed up, then showed my mum what a terrible temperature I had! 
Jack Rix inspiration for A Tangled Web

The story called A Tangled Web came about when my youngest son Jack woke up one morning with a bad cold. His chest was tight and he said to me, “It feels like spiders are spinning a web around my ribs.” Brilliant! I left him in his sick bed and went upstairs to write a story about a boy who tortures spiders, and the spiders take their revenge by setting up home in his chest!
And when I remembered Struwwlpeter, I realised that what I was writing was a modern collection of Cautionary Tales – Unlike the stories of Roald Dahl where the adults tend to be bad and the children the heroes, I had bad children in my stories who needed to be taught a lesson!

Helen Rix inspiration for Mrs Frightfully Busy

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