Terry Deary, 66, introduced the world to the Terrible Tudors, Vile Victorians, Awful Egyptians and Ruthless Romans, among many others, in the Horrible Histories series, which has sold 25 million copies worldwide.
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What was your earliest ambition?
I wanted to play football for Sunderland FC – I still do.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
State school, a total waste of 12 years of my life. I wish I could have those 12 years back, they taught me nothing worth knowing.
I went on to work for the North Eastern Electricity Board as a management trainee. I thought school was bad; that was even worse. It was a very depressing experience so I went and trained to be an actor.
Who is your mentor?
I try to learn from everyone; I don’t hold one person up as a model.
How physically fit are you?
I run 10 to 15 miles a week and do half-marathons every year.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
There is another element: luck. I happened to send my first book to the right publisher at the right time.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
Yes, a long time ago. I scored about 160 but I didn’t believe it. You cannot really measure IQ.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do but I’m not very good – I can’t even persuade my wife to give up the Range Rover.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Running shoes. I’ve got 12 pairs. I’m the Imelda Marcos of my running club.
How politically committed are you?
Absolutely neutral. I think all politicians should be shot.
What ambitions do you still have?
Last June, my daughter had twins, my first grandchildren. I’d like to live long enough to see them grow up.
Do you have more than one home?
One’s enough for anybody.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A time machine.
In what place are you happiest?
In my office in the attic of the house. It’s an oasis but I’m still in touch with the world.
What drives you on?
As Primo Levi, the Holocaust survivor, said: it is the duty of all righteous men to make war against unearned privilege.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Last year I ran Hadrian’s Wall from one end to the other and finished up with the Great North Run; 100 miles in a week to raise £8,000 for disabled children. It hurt.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
Failure to make it as a pop star. I was a folk singer in my youth. One of my mates went to London to become a pop star; we expected him back in six weeks. He later popped up as Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
He’d be surprised to see age hasn’t brought wisdom but pleased to see it hasn’t brought conformity.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
I’d be amazingly happy, like Marley’s ghost losing his chains of materialism.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Yes, you can assist me any time you like.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I believe in a universal consciousness where we all find peace and understanding.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Am I allowed to say 11? I’ve been so lucky.
The Birmingham Stage Company is presenting the world premiere of ‘Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain’ at the Garrick Theatre. www.barmybritain.com; 0844 482 9673