How We Met: Marianne Levy & Andy Stanton


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The Independent Online

Marianne Levy, 33

Levy began writing and performing at Cambridge University as part of the Footlights theatrical club, then spent a decade as an actress and voiceover artist, before writing her first children's book. She lives in north London

If you haven't read his books, Andy might seem quite odd when you first meet him. His legs are constantly jiggling around, he has this big hair and he doodles like crazy when you talk to him. Some people just have extra life distilled into them and Andy has an extraordinary creative energy that flows out of him.

Just before I met Andy, I was working as a jobbing actor and doing some comedy, but I was secretly trying to write a kids' book about a young actress called Ellie May. My agent said, "You must read this book by Andy Stanton called You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum!." Reading it felt like a bomb had gone off in my head; it made me realise there's a market for funny books for children without having to write down to them.

I found him on Twitter and got in touch. We started tweeting jokes to each other and it turned out he lived a mile down the road. So I said, "Let's meet up for a drink." We actually went on a couple of dates, though it quickly became apparent that we weren't suited, and we became friends.

I told him I was writing a book – and with the same publisher as him, Egmont – but not anything else about it as we were now friends and I didn't want to bring work into it. But his editor secretly sent him my manuscript so Andy asked if I minded him reading it. I said of course not and he said, "Cool, I already read it – and I liked it." It was a huge relief.

I hate words like zany, but his books are brilliantly off-the-wall, and I love the way he plays around with words.

Being a writer can be really lonely, so to have someone like Andy to hang out with is great. He experiences the world very intensely. He'll say, "I like to sit in a room and run my eyes across all the surfaces and imagine what they feel like, without going over to touch them." It makes for invigorating company and when I'm with him I experience the world differently, too. But underneath this interesting-looking guy with the quirky persona, I've found something else: a kind, generous man who's also the leading light of his generation.

Andy Stanton, 38

Stanton spent 10 years in various jobs, from stand-up comedian to film-script reader, cartoonist to NHS lackey before writing his first book, 'You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum!'. The best-selling Mr Gum series has since won him various awards, including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. He lives in north London

Marianne's quite a softie, but the first time I saw her she was decked out in so much leather I thought she was a wallet. We'd first met on Twitter, and as Marianne thought we might get on we met up for a drink. I thought she was charming, but I think we both decided romance was not the road to go down; we went on a different path labelled "very good friends indeed" instead.

Marianne is insane. She goes through life with these bizarre little fears which are also rather endearing. Such as when she's using the Tube: rather than get off at the nearest stop to a destination, she'll avoid certain stations. Then there was the time she came to my house during a thunderstorm, looking like an animated refugee mouse. I had to pull all the blinds down and put on loud music before she'd venture in from the hallway.

But Marianne is great as she not only goes along with my silliness, she is an enabler of my indulgences, too. You know you've got a good friend when you can go on a four-day adventure in the psycho community that is the Edinburgh Festival, get out of your mind on beer, comedy and sleeplessness, and drag her to a gig at 1.30am and still get on.

I knew she did voiceovers for TV shows and was friendly with lots of comedians, but at some point she began mumbling about a book of hers that was finally finished. I know I look like a shambles – and everyone thinks that if you're writing kids' stuff you sleep in a big bed made of cheese and get up and play in clouds – but I'm quite smart when it comes to getting the best deal and I was happy to advise her. I have the mindset that 90 per cent of everything is rubbish, so I read her book behind her back. Unusually for me, I barked out laughing; that's pretty impressive. It's delightfully done and just as kooky as she is.

'Ellie May Would Like to be Taken Seriously for a Change' by Marianne Levy is published by Egmont, priced £5.99. Andy Stanton appears at the Edinburgh Book Festival tomorrow at the RBS Main Theatre, and on Tuesday at the RBS Story Box. See for more details