Andy Riley

King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor: Book 1
Andy Riley

About Author

Andy Riley is a highly successful cartoonist and comedy scriptwriter. TV writing credits include HBO's Veep, Gangsta Granny, Robbie the Reindeer, Little Britain and Black Books. Film credits include The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and Gnomeo and Juliet. His bestselling books include The Bunny Suicides series.





KING EDWIN FLASHYPANTS, the diminutive boy king, is back in a new adventure involving monsters, quests and the evil Emperor Nurbison. The King Flashypants books are funny, quirky and action-packed - ideal for children aged six years plus and newly confident readers.

In his second adventure, King Flashypants is facing a new challenge - a huge and terrifying monster called the Gizimoth! Being a King, Edwin decides it is his duty to fight the monster, but the sneaky Emperor Nurbison is hatching his own plans....

We asked author and illustrator Andy Riley to tell us more about the latest King Flashypants book:

Q: Why did you decide that King Edwin should go on a quest for this story?

A: The oldest surviving written story is the Epic of Gilgamesh, the middle part of which can be summed up as: monster threatens community, hero goes on journey to defeat it. That's the most basic of human stories and it turns up over and over again. It's Theseus and the minotaur; it's Beowulf; it's The Lord of the Rings.

I thought: Edwin's all set up for it, being a king in the olden days, so let's send him on a quest. A kind of Beowulf with more fart jokes.

Q: Edwin's 'trusty steed' is a vertically-challenged, talking horse called Colin, how did he develop?

A: Colin came about from me looking around my own house, and noticing that my sons (now 10 and 12) have old stuff hanging around that they've outgrown. There's an old bicycle that looks comically small now. The olden days equivalent of the too-small bike is a tiny horse that Edwin grew out of years ago.

Colin speaks once, and when he does, it's in the manner of a hero from Irish legend because the cadences of those myths are so beautiful. You'll have worked out by now that I've read a lot of mythology.

Q: Edwin is searching for the Creature of Crong - who looks wonderfully scary. Did you need to draw a lot of monsters before you got him right?

A: The first picture of the creature you see in the book is the first time I ever drew it. When writing and rewriting the story, I figured out in my head just how I wanted it to look.

The scariest thing you can draw is not normally a horn, or a claw, or the other traditional parts of a monster; it's an eye. So something made mostly of eyes is bound to look a little bit scary. But also a bit stupid, too. That's the sweet spot I was trying to hit, anyway.

Q: Vegetables take a starring but unloved role in this book. What were the vegetables you liked least as an eight year old?

A: People do change their minds about vegetables as the book goes on! In my house we ate peas all the time, because my brother was a fussy eater and wouldn't each much else that was green. So it was peas, peas, peas all the way. I didn't mind at the time, but by the age of eighteen I'd had enough for a lifetime, and I never buy peas now.

When I was around Edwin's age, I suppose my least favourite would have been cabbage, because the only cabbage I knew was over-boiled pale stodge from the school canteen. I love cabbage now.

Q: Sweets also take centre stage, especially red bootlaces. Are they a favourite of yours?

A: I hate to eat red bootlaces. They're the most disgusting snack ever created, even worse than flying saucer sweets. But they're useful for Edwin, so into the story they went.

As a child I loved sherbert fountains because you could make them last for ages, and I was quite good at spinning my pleasures out. I always made sure to finish my Coca-cola after my brother had finished his, so I could enjoy a blissful five minutes where I still had some Coke but he had none.

Sherbert fountains also have a stick of licorice in, and licorice is like edible plasticine. When I was eight I realised that with just a handful of licorice sticks you can make a tarantula. Which you can then eat.

Q: Emperor Nurbison has a chance to be friends with King Edwin towards the end of the story - did you ever think he might be able to change?

A: Not yet, not in book two. He's still a resolutely evil scumbag at this point. But watch for shifts in books to come...

Q: Who were your favourite literary bad guys as a child?

A: My reading centred around comics. Of the ones I loved, the Beano and 2000AD survive, but all the others are long gone: Action, Bullet, Whizzer and Chips, Krazy, Cheeky Weekly.

There was one villain in Krazy who stayed with me. Pongo Snodgrass, the enemy of the Krazy Gang. He was a kid who just hated all the other kids and was always laying traps for them. And he smelt very bad. Like Emperor Nurbison, he was one of those characters who, in the modern parlance, 'identifies' as evil, and tries to live up to that as best he can. There's something strangely lovable about that type of character. Does Krazy comic count as 'literary'? I hope so.

Q: Despite Nurbison's evilness, these books are really funny - how hard is it to keep them funny, and why do you want to make children laugh?

A: Thank you! Having been a comedy writer and cartoonist for 25 years now, I'm wired up to write and draw in a funny way - or at least, I'll trust my ability to work humour in. I think I'd find it much harder to write a serious book for children.

What I do work hard on is making sure the emotional story of the book works as well as it can, so that underneath the knockabout stuff there is another level which resonates with the readers. Once I've made sure the story's got heart, then the jokes can come.

Q: Does drawing help you to write your stories? What would be your top tips to young comic creators?

A: I do all the writing first, and only begin drawing once the story is entirely locked down. But while I'm writing, I'm drawing in my mind, so when I come to illustrate it's really a matter of getting down what I've already been imagining for some time.

Knowing I'm going to draw the stories constantly affects what I'm writing. I know that every couple of lines, some visual fun must happen. If I have a couple of pages which is just two people talking and not much else going on - it's time to rewrite.

My only advice to young comic creators would be - draw a lot!

Q: What can we look forward to in Edwin's next adventure - and will Emperor Nurbison be back?!

A: Book three is called King Flashypants and the Toys of Terror - which should tell you something about what's going to be in the tale.

Emperor Nurbison is in it, but we'll see sides to him we haven't seen before. And we'll get to meet his mum, and see why he turned out the way he did...

After book three, King Edwin will be discovering some new adversaries as he further explores the world beyond Edwinland. Nurbison will still be a presence of course. Doctor Who doesn't fight the Daleks every time, but the Daleks are always waiting for a chance to pounce...




JULY 2016

Andy Riley, a comedy scriptwriter by trade, has turned his attention to children's books and his debut for this age group, King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor, has mountains of silliness, bags of inventiveness and lots of charm!

King Edwin, a boy, lives a life of luxury and is beloved by the peasants until the evil Emperor Nurbison decides it's time to take over Edwin's kingdom.

The series is aimed at children aged six or seven years plus and will be one that children are going to devour - and have fun doing so. We spoke to author Andy Riley and asked him to tell us more about his debut children's novel.

Q: You've been working in film and television for years - which project have you enjoyed the most?

A: That was probably the 99p Challenge, a Radio 4 show presented by Sue Perkins before she became really famous. We had loads of silly ideas for challenges and the top prize was always 99p.

Q: Did working on the television adaptation of David Walliams' Gangsta Granny and Boy in a Dress help inspire you to write your own children's book?

A: My colleague Kevin and I had already worked with David Walliams on Little Britain, writing the David and Matt scripts. It was great to then work with him on those adaptations because he didn't mind us changing things from the book for the television scrips - in fact, he wanted to make more changes than we did.

Working on that also meant that for a couple of months, I was adapting children's books during the day, going home to read stories to my children, and my wife was also in the process of becoming a children's author (Polly Faber with Mango and Bambang). So, from the moment I woke up until the point I went to bed, I was consumed by children's books and there was going to be a moment where I thought, 'I have to give this a go....'. Although I was already a kind of children's writer - by accident - as lots of children enjoyed my Bunny Suicide books.

Q: Has being a script writer influenced how you write your novels?

A: As a script writer you're trained to keep the text to a minimum. You could never spend a paragraph describing what someone's hair is like. So over the years I've got used to going through my scripts and striking out any extra words. So for me this story was always going to be told in the minimum number of words.

Q: What was your starting point for the novel?

A: The entire story comes from the first words in the book - "Seize him!" - but I wrote that before I worked out that this could be a children's book. I had had the idea for a film where the evil emperor keeps saying 'Seize him!' but he's actually a good guy - but I couldn't make it work. Then I realised he could be an evil guy in a children's book so he became Nurbison and it all fell into place. When I got his 'evil laugh', Foo hoo hoo, I had Nurbison's character because I knew he was someone who had taken the trouble to invent his own laugh!

Q: It says in the book that you do a great 'Foo hoo hoo!'. Do you?

A: Well, no. I didn't actually write that sentence. But once it was in the book I realised that I'd need to learn how... so I'm working on it...

Q: Did you enjoy writing King Flashypants?

A: I really enjoyed it. I tried not to work at it in a way and tried to let my subconscious do the planning. It was so different from working in film where everyone is obsessed by structure. I kind of wrote the story backwards, having already got the ending.

Once I had the story worked out I just wanted to put in everything that I would possibly have liked aged eight - so in this story, King Edwin has a car that throws out chocolates, while in book two he gets a horse and in book three he gets a pet.

The story is a slightly scaled down version of the kinds of fantasies I would have aged eight, when I'd be lying in bed imagining that me and my friends were the Thunderbirds and that there was a giant underground base near where we lived that was full of rockets and planes and we'd save the world whenever we needed to and go back to our lessons in between!

Q: Why did you decide to make your main character a boy who is also king?

A: Often in children's books you have a child who is down on his luck so I decided to have a child who already had everything he could want. I scaled it down a bit so Edwin has quite a small kingdom that has only one village, but he still has everything he wants. He's also a very ordinary child. If you look carefully, you'll see he wears trainers as well as a crown. He's just a kid like any other.

Also, although the story is set in the past, I didn't want to be too careful about history - the characters have inflatable hammers! (these could have been made from pigs' bladders....) So the world is not the real old world but it's clear to me; it's my personal Game of Thrones going on in my head!

Q: You don't given Edwin any gadgets or magic - were you tempted to?

A: I wasn't because I want him to use his own skills to get out of scrapes. If you think about Dr Who, he has to be smart and to understand the psychology of his enemies and use that against them. So Edwin has to 'Dr Who' his way out of things. He's up against Nurbison who is quite clever, so they have to be as ingenious as they can against each other.

Q: Although you do give Edwin a car that shoots out chocolates....

A: Yes, and there'll be more of those in other stories. One of the things I really loved as a child were those hugely complicated illustrations that Heath Robinson used to draw, and he had these books about special inventions and military machines. Me and my brother got those out of the library a million times and I was thinking of his gadgets and his war machines when I drew Edwin's special car. I wanted a big thing that fired off stuff in two directions. In the next book there's a character who had to enter a room and Megan pulls a handle and he comes in through a special shute. I wrote that simply so I could draw it - I'm always wondering, 'where can I get a gadget in....?'

Q: So did you always plan to illustrate your stories?

A: As I write, I draw what I'm writing in my head, so the drawing part of the story was always going to be there and it comes quite easily.

Although there are times when I'm writing something and a voice inside my head asks, 'I wonder how the illustrator will handle this? Ah, don't worry, leave it to the illustrator to sort out'. And when I come to it as the illustrator, I do sometimes think, 'How do you expect me to illustrate the inside of a volcano....? It's so dark!'

It's fun doing a book compared to writing a script, though, because with a script you're always wondering about the budgeting side of things while with a book, if I decide I want a one hundred foot piggy bank in the story, I can just write it in!

Q: Have you ever trained as an illustrator?

A: I have an O Level in Illustration, so no I haven't and my drawings would probably be better if I had, but what I am trying to do is draw what I'd have enjoyed seeing at that age. When I was a boy I mostly read comics and a boy who was a king could have stepped straight out of one of those comics - Lord Snooty in Buster has his own castle, for example. So I just wanted my characters to be quite jaunty. Edwin's smile says, 'What should I get up to today?!' A while ago I worked out that I couldn't do beautiful drawings but I can do funny so that's what I concentrate on.

Q: Which character did you have the most fun drawing?

A: Ah, that will be Nurbison. I only did three sketches before I decided what he'd look like and I never get tired of drawing him. I have actually taken his face from another character I've drawn for a cartoon I used to do for The Observer.

Q: What can we expect from book two?

A: There will be a giant monster - it's colossal! - with lots of eyes! I wanted the story to be as fundamental to human society as Beowulf where the hero fights a monster to save his country, so Edwin has to go on a quest to find the monster and save his civilisation. Of course Nurbison has other plans.... But you can expect a quest with a giant monster.

Also check the map in the book, you'll see there are lots of mysterious places like the Island X and The Weird Meadow - even I didn't know what they were before I started writing, but we'll find out about those in the coming stories.

Q: What do you do to relax when you're not writing?

A: I like to go swimming and walking and to wrestle the kids. I used to do woodwork although I've not done so for a while. I also love wild camping - that means any camping where you're not supposed to because you're not on an official campsite and so you don't have permission to camp there. I've camped in woods and on moors but I have also camped on roundabouts. I found a wooded area once on a roundabout and camped there, it was in the middle of huge lanes of traffic so everyone is rushing around and you're at the centre of all that movement. It's surprisingly restful!

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