The Wearside author who made history fun for generations of children with his Horrible Histories series is marking a marvellous milestone.
Terry Deary’s foul facts about the gloriously gory past have captured the imaginations of young people, and kids at heart, across the globe, making him the world’s best-selling non-fiction author for children.
Now, more than two decades after he first put pen to paper to write The Terrible Tudors and The Awful Egyptians, he’ll be helping to bring his work to life on the stage to mark the 25th anniversary of the hugely-successful franchise.
Hendon-born Terry, who is an actor as well as a writer, is returning to the Sunderland Empire to appear in the Wearside leg of Birmingham Stage Company’s current Horrible Histories tour, a stage where Terry’s love of theatre began 63-years-ago.
Cajoled by his father, a seven-year-old Terry trod the boards at the Empire during a Smith Brothers Christmas show when they asked a young person to join them on stage - and Terry was hooked.
“My dad played clarinet in a dance band and he said to me ‘go on son’,” Terry recalls. “The spotlight was on me and I sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with all my heart in front of 2,000 people who all applauded, and I got an ice cream at the end. It was then that I knew acting was for me.”
Next week Terry, 71, will step into the Empire spotlight once more to play cameo roles in all of the tour’s Sunderland performances, which run from November 21-24.
Terry says he always knew the books, which have sold more than 25million copies worldwide, would strike a chord.
“When a writer creates a book they think it’s great and that it will be a book that everybody wants to read, so they’re surprised when it isn’t selling 25 years later,” he said. “What I didn’t know was the books’ potential for theatre.”
Theatre and writing are the perfect marriage for Terry who enjoys a career in both fields.
After a brief stint as a teacher, Terry chased his dreams of becoming an actor and it was while working in Wales for a theatre company that he wrote a piece for theatre, The Custard Kid, which became a successful children’s book. And so began Terry’s career in writing, which has seen him pen 300 books, for both adults and children.
“I’m a writer, it’s what I do, it’s in my blood. Storytelling just comes naturally to me, whether it be in theatre or books,” he explained.
His inspiration for Horrible Histories was born from his desire to tell the stories of real people and not just that of Kings and Queens.
In his school years as a pupil at Monkwearmouth School he was taught history by dictation and when he became an author he wanted to inject some fun into learning about the past.
He said: “Historians focus on people like Queen Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots and they would probably call my books trivia, but I wanted to know about normal people in history and how people like me would live. Another important aspect is focusing on normal people who overcame horrible things.”
Terry pens his works at his farmhouse in County Durham where he’s recently completed a Brexit-based book called Cruel Britannia. He’s also in the midst of writing a series of Peasants Revolting books for adults.
Despite his successes in the entertainment industry, however, Terry’s never headed to the bright lights of London, preferring to settle in his home region. And the question he gets asked the most by his fellow Mackems?
He quipped: “Whenever I’m at the Stadium of Light people always ask when I’m going to write a Horrible Histories about this lot.”
•Horrible Histories Live on Stage, featuring 3D Bogglevision effects, is at Sunderland Empire from November 21-24. Tickets are available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022 or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.
We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a family ticket (two adults, two children) to Terrible Tudors on Wednesday, November, 21 at 7pm.
at Sunderland Empire. Tickets are non-transferable and no monetary value will be given.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these is not a Horrible Histories book?
A) Groovy Geeks
B) Marvellous Mackems
C) Vile Victorians
Email your answer, along with your contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk by 9am on Monday, November 19. All entries are deleted once the competition is drawn and not passed on to a third party.