Levi is pretty sick of starring in Dad’s stupid TV show, Kid Kablam. Because Levi is the kid who gets KABLAMMED! So far he’s been knocked down, blown up, and attacked by wild animals. And Dad has one more scene planned – the most dangerous stunt so far. Can Levi survive this final stunt without seriously stacking it?
With action-packed writing and hilarious illustrations by Max Rambaldi, this is the perfect book to engage reluctant and voracious readers aged 9+.
Where did Stunt Kid come from?
When I was young, there used to be these things called “DVDs” – they looked a bit like doughnuts, but flatter, shinier, and a lot less tasty. You could use them to watch movies (on a device called a “DVD player”) and nearly all of them included special features. You could watch bloopers – scenes that hadn’t worked because someone made a mistake while filming. Sometimes Owen Wilson accidentally farted in the bathtub, sometimes Edward Norton got hit by a bus (I’m not kidding). You could also watch scenes which had been cut for some other reason (often it was too boring, or it made the twist too obvious, or it contradicted something else in the movie). There was usually a “making of” featurette, a short movie about how the movie-makers made the movie. And there would be commentary tracks, where the cast and crew would talk over the top of the film, telling you funny stories about things that went wrong while they were making it. (“I didn’t hit him that hard,” I remember Milla Jovovich insisting. “And the axe was just plastic!”)
I loved all this stuff. Even after I abandoned the idea of becoming a filmmaker (I decided I liked books better) I was fascinated by all these crazy people who made these ridiculous movies. I especially liked the stories from the days before CGI, when all the stunts had to be done with wires and mattresses and fire suits.
Later, I was trying to come up with a new dangerous situation to put a kid in. (I spend most of my career doing this.) When it occurred to me that the kid’s Dad might be filming a ridiculous TV show – and he might want his reluctant son to do all the dangerous stunts for real – I could immediately see the potential for excitement and laughter.
Is Levi based on you?
Levi is more quiet and cautious than I ever was. He’s a bit like my own son. Come to think of it, I’m more like Levi’s crazy, reckless dad. Hmm – I’m realising things about myself during this Q&A that I’m not sure I like.
Most of the characters are purely invented, but some of the details are inspired by real events. For example, retired stuntman Joe Dangerfield talks about bungee jumping off a bridge and blacking out halfway down – film buffs will remember happening to stuntman Wayne Michaels during his famous dive in Goldeneye (1995). They might also recognise Dangerfield’s car from Bullitt (1968) and Deathproof (2007). Also, not to bring up Milla Jovovich again, but when she was asked why she had punched the producer in the eye during his cameo as a zombie, she said, “Fake punches look fake.” Levi’s dad says several variations on this, including, “Fake explosions look fake, kiddo.”
Did you do the illustrations?
Nope! Max Rambaldi did. Doing my own illustrations would be no fun at all. Firstly because they wouldn’t be good, and secondly because having a book illustrated by someone else allows me to see what all the characters and the action look like in someone else’s head – a bit like having the book made into a movie. I love Max’s pictures. All her drawings of the police sniffer horse made me laugh out loud.
Can we see one?
Why did you decide to write a comedy?
Give me a minute. I’m still chuckling about that horse.
Ah. What was the question again?
Why did you decide to write a comedy?
Well, firstly my publisher asked me to. I agreed because I like laughing, and I like making people laugh. I’ve always tried to include funny bits in all my books, including the thrillers. Good books always have lots of contrast – sad bits right next to scary bits, romance next to horror, and so on. (There are action scenes in Stunt Kid, too.)
Having said that, comedy is the hardest genre to write. Partly this is because it’s so subjective – what makes you laugh may not work on someone else. (It might even offend them.) And it’s hard to test the jokes, because it’s a book, not a stand-up routine. You can’t just hover there watching your readers to see if they laugh, because you’ll freak them out, and you can’t tell which bit they’re up to anyway. Also, each joke only works once. So you’ll laugh a lot while writing the first draft, but when you’re editing, it’s hard to tell what’s funny and what isn’t, because you’ve heard all these jokes before. So you put more jokes in, which is great… until you edit the next draft. And so on.
Will you write any more comedies?
I already have! My next one is called Kid President Totally Rules, and it’s about a kid who accidentally becomes president. If you want to know when the book comes out, you can subscribe to my newsletter – it’s pretty funny, too. Here’s the kind of thing I’ll send you.
Isn’t that just like Funny Kid for President, by Matt Stanton?
No. It’s completely different. Please don’t tell Matt Stanton about Kid President Totally Rules.
Will there be a movie of Stunt Kid Seriously Stacks It?
Oh man, that would be meta! If there is, I hope the stunt director is more sensible than Levi’s dad.