He might be in his 30s and a dad of two boys, but Tom Fletcher admits he still has trouble getting to sleep at night – because his imagination runs away with him.
“I still sleep with the light on,” he says smiling. “Still now, at 32, with two kids of my own. I’ve never been able to sleep in the dark, I’m terrified of the dark.
“Since having kids, I’ve started sleeping through, but I’ve always had those [times] when you’re so paralysed by fear and you’re too scared to move – that’s been a regular occurrence throughout my life. I’ve always had weird issues with my imagination running wild at night-time.”
Tom’s putting his overactive imagination to good use in his stories for children – the latest of which, The Creakers, is all about the things that live under your bed and only come out when you’re asleep.
“I was fascinated with things that scared me as a kid. I used to watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller behind the sofa and the Ghostbusters were my idols. My Dad used to tell me stories about aliens and monsters and ghosts. I’d get him to tell me more and more, but I never slept because I was terrified.
“Most of the things I really love now scared me a bit. So, I thought maybe it’s time to scare the kids again! It’s the idea of when you’re in bed, what makes those noises around your house at night-time? Everyone has those strange creaks and clangs that happen.”
Here, the McFly frontman talks about his favourite children’s books and what inspired The Creakers…
Your heroine Lucy is super-calm under pressure when all the grown-ups disappear overnight. Was she based on your wife Giovanna?
“Yeah, I think so. Myself even, as well. So far, I haven’t written one person as they are as a character; I’ve taken lots of different elements of people and put them in, but I remember seeing something on Facebook about the lack of strong female lead characters in children’s fiction.
“They took a library and took out the books that had a female supporting character to a strong male, or they were a princess or a damsel in distress. What you’re left with, the books with strong female characters from a huge selection of books, was just a couple. That was the deciding factor [for Lucy] – a strong female lead who’s not a princess or a damsel in distress.”
The Creakers in the story steal rubbish from humans and recycle it. Was it important for you to include a message about waste?
“I wanted there to be some sort of moral and to do some good with the book. At the time, there was a lot of news written about the plastic we find in the ocean and recycling. With this demographic (7-12-year-olds), it’s such an important and influential time in their lives, so I thought maybe that’s a good thing to explore.”
What are your earliest memories of reading or being read to?
“My parents used to read me a lot of Dr Zeus when I was a kid, they were quite animated readers. I remember my dad reading The Snowman to me, and all these books that I still love now and read with my kids. My Dad made the book come alive; he’d make me ask questions and pretend the book was saying yes or no. It was quite an engaging process reading with my parents as a kid.”
Which book had the biggest impact on you?
“The Harry Potter books were really defining for me, they were the first books I really got completely lost in and there was no one telling me to read them. When the last book came out, I was on tour with McFly, we’d just sold out Manchester Arena, played the show and it was coming out that night.
“I’d pre-ordered my book with Waterstones in Manchester, and we did a runner from the venue, went back to the hotel, got changed, put a massive coat on and joined the queue at Waterstones. Half the Mcfly fans were there and I had my hood up the whole time. But I couldn’t wait, I was totally lost in those books. They just changed my life.”
You co-wrote a series of picture books with McFly bandmate Dougie Poynter. Do you read them to your sons Buddy and Buzz?
“I don’t force them on my kids! The thing is, Buzz loves The Dinosaur That Pooped A Planet, he’ll ask for that, and The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas. You get to a point where they get so familiar with it, they can read it to you and finish it. But he’s not so keen on The Dinosaur That pooped The Past and The Dinosaur That Pooped The Bed, so he lets me know if he doesn’t like it as well.”
The Creakers by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Shane Devries, is published in hardback by Puffin, priced £12.99. Available now.