So, today I’m supposed to be doing a review of a book by Tommy Donbavand, as part of the #TommyVCancer blog tour. I did one review earlier in the month for the first Scream Street book, which you can check out here.
I’ve read most of Tommy’s books, usually before they make it to print, so I could pick any to review, really. I could tell you that Zombie is amazing, or Fangs: Vampire Spy is hilarious, or even that his first ever published book – Quick Fixes for Bored Kids – is a surefire way of keeping youngsters entertained without breaking the bank.
But I’m not going to do any of that. Just trust me – pick up any of Tommy’s books, and you’re in for a treat, no matter which one you go for.
Instead, I want to talk about my books. Specifically, I want to talk about how I owe my entire career to Tommy Donbavand.
I can’t actually remember the year Tommy and I first “met”. I use the inverted commas because we actually got to know each other online, via what was one of the internet’s earliest writing communities. We swapped comments on screenplays we’d both written, and very soon discovered a mutual love of the Beatles, science-fiction, and Terry & June. Not necessarily in that order.
We added each other on ICQ, the leading messaging app of the day, and we’ve spoken to each other online more or less every day for what must be pushing 18 or 19 years now. Over the years we’ve met many times in real life – Tommy acted in a film I was directing up here in the Highlands, I took my then-fiancee, now wife, to see him in London’s West End. We’ve run events together, hosted podcasts together, presented at conferences together, all the while trying to one-up each other in front of the audience.
A few years ago, I had the honour of being the best man at Tommy’s wedding. I used my speech as an opportunity to promote my books. Books which, without Tommy, would almost certainly never have existed.
Let me rewind a little to around the year 2000. I’d had some early success getting screenplays optioned a couple of years before, but since then, nothing I wrote was going anywhere. I submitted a few scripts around, tried to write a book, then everything came crashing to a halt. I got a proper job – in a call centre, no less – and decided that I didn’t have it in me to make it as a writer.
I hadn’t known Tommy all that long back then, but he told me otherwise. He showed me the shelves and shelves of ideas, pitches, manuscripts and more which he had written over the years, and which hadn’t broken through yet. He was working on something new – several of them, actually – and was of the mindset that every rejection he got was a step closer to being published.
I didn’t listen. I just kept working a job I hated and the only stuff I wrote was the occasional book or movie review for a website.
Tommy kept nagging, though. He can be very focused when he wants to be. Over the next few year he bounced ideas off me, and encouraged me to do the same back at him. I hadn’t really had any ideas for books or film scripts in a few years by this point, but I was so fed up of his bloody whinging that I decided to think of something – anything – that might shut him up.
So over the course of a couple of days in 2005, I came up with an idea, then told Tommy about it.
“It’s about a kid,” I said, “whose imaginary friend from when he was four comes back when he’s twelve and tries to kill him.”
Tommy was excited by the premise, and the more we spoke about it, the more excited I got, too. We discussed it for an hour or more, then Tommy had to head off. I was going to leave the computer too, but I hesitated with my mouse cursor held over the Start button.
And then I opened a Word document and, for the first time in years, I typed: “Chapter One”.
Two years later, HarperCollins Children’s Books bought the book, and five more in the “Invisible Fiends” series. Since then, I’ve written dozens of books for a range of publishers, and I often wonder just how different my life would have been were it not for Tommy and his incessant nagging. Every book, TV script or comic strip I’ve written since then have been because of Tommy, and for that, I can never repay him.
So, Tommy’s books – buy them. Buy all of them. There’s not a bad one among them (well, maybe those David Beckham ones we both ghost-wrote…) and they’ll turn the most reluctant of young readers into an avid book-lover.
While buying his books is lovely, the way royalties work means that won’t make an immediate difference to Tommy’s situation. You can help him right now by donating via his website, or supporting him on Patreon.com. Any amount you can spare will make a huge difference, helping him get back on his feet without the worry of bills hanging over his head.
I know Tommy has in the past and will in the future do his best to help anyone in trouble, but for now it’s him that needs a bit of support. So please, if you can, dig deep.