Author and actor David Barry became well-known in the sixties and seventies for playing the role of lovable fantasist Frankie Abbott in the English hit comedy series Please Sir! and The Fenn Street Gang. Apart from television, he also worked as an actor in many theatre productions in and outside the United Kingdom and more recently launched a successful career as an author. During our interview we talked about various different aspects of his work, such as the source of his inspiration, the writing process and trying to come up with ‘the perfect murder’!
David discovered his passion for writing at school. “I was terrible at maths, but I enjoyed writing essays and had a good English teacher, who really encouraged me,” he recalls. “Years later, when I worked on The Fenn Street Gang, I had started to write little comedies and I gave them to Mark Stuart, who was our director and producer. He said: ‘Why don’t you have a go at the Fenn Street Gang? Because I like your writing.’ So I did. I wrote a script and they used it.”
Inspiration and perspiration
“I mainly get my ideas and inspiration from articles in newspapers and real life. It doesn’t have to be world news, even local news can be inspiring and trigger an idea. But in general it’s ninety percent perspiration and only ten percent inspiration… Once you start writing, you have to commit yourself to finishing it and that can be hard work.”
“I work out the entire storyline before I start writing. But during the writing process there is room for adjustment, because I sometimes discover I want to take the plot into a different direction or bring in another character. I always try to create composite characters, a character who is composed of two or more real life individuals, so nobody can prove I based that character on him or her. That way I can say ‘No, the character is not based on you, you don’t have a wooden leg!’ I’m ruthless,” he quips.
Outsmarting the police
Speaking of being ruthless… for writing purposes only of course, David tries to get inside the mind of a criminal. “During the development of my story I try to identify more with the bad guys than with the protagonist, because if the bad guys paint themselves into a corner… how would they get out of it? What would I do if I was a criminal and wanted to commit the so-called perfect murder? I try to outsmart the police!” he laughs.
The Ice Cream Time Machine
David primarily writes crime novels, but he wrote a children’s book as well. “When I was working in Aberdeen as a writer in residence, I came up with the idea for my book The Ice Cream Time Machine before I went to Scotland. I was working with children of ten, eleven years old, doing creative writing with them. As I wrote the story about a time travel adventure, I would test it out on the pupils. They were a great audience!”
The Missing Persons
Having written a children’s book, an autobiography called Flashback – an actor’s life and various crime novels under the name ‘David Barry’, surprisingly the one book he wrote in his own name, Meurig Jones, called The Missing Persons is his favourite. “I had written two books: Mr Macawber Down Under and The Wrecking Bar, and had to write a third one for the publisher. Strangely enough, because I was put on the spot, it turned out to be my best book so far!”
David Barry has a new book coming out soon and has recently written a comedy called ‘A Day In The Lives Of Frankie Abbott’, in which Frankie is in his mid-sixties and in a care home. The performance of this comedy will take place in the spring of 2016 at the Misty Moon Film Society in London and also stars Hi-de-Hi! actress Linda Regan. Keep an eye on the website of Misty Moon Film Society for more information. If you want to read more about David Barry, you can visit his official website www.davidbarryauthor.co.uk and follow him on Twitter: @dbarrywriter.