Danny Wallace chats kids being The Boss of Everyone
The Boss of Everyone explores what happens if you give a very serious ten-year-old the power to be the boss
Danny Wallace is a comedian and a presenter who has written many fun books for middle grade readers. The Boss of Everyone is the latest standalone that explores what happens if you give a very serious ten-year-old the power to be the boss. Following Joss whose greatest ambition is to be Class Monitor at school, The Boss of Everyone brings readers to the chaotic Take Your Kid to Work Day where Joss accidentally becomes the boss of the games company her dad works for…
We had the honour of chatting with Danny about the idea behind the book:
This is such a cool idea! What’s the inspiration behind the story?
I have a very sensible, very cool 8-year-old girl in the house, who has a great sense of how things should be. I am absolutely certain if she was put in charge of any major business in the UK or abroad, she would run that business extremely well. So I thought – what if that actually happened? What if somehow, a kid was put in charge of my own business? And then they suddenly became MY BOSS? It would be difficult at work – but it would be even weirder at home… imagine living with your boss! And having no authority, even though you’re their parent!
The execution is great as well – everything in the book clicks together perfectly, especially with Joss’ parents’ jobs. What was the planning process like?
Well, the way I write is to come up and idea that excites me – and then dive in and see what happens. That way, even I am surprised by the way the story goes. So when I came up with the idea, it wasn’t for a while that I decided that Joss’s mum should ALSO be her headteacher. It explains why she is the way she is – and it also explains why her mum is very happy for her to go off and hang out at her dad’s place of work for once…
Once I find the main story, I find the other characters, and work out what our hero needs and lacks – and how to sort that out!
Joss is always very serious and wants to appear smart all the time. Why do you think it’s bad that children are too serious?
I think all kids are different and I don’t think it’s bad if a kid is one way or the other – but I do think kids should be allowed to try and be loads of different things so they never feel they HAVE to be one way or the other. A parent’s influence is great and powerful, but the kid might be wired differently. So let them explore, have fun, run wild, try new things, and never let them think there’s only one way to be. I hope that’s what the kids in my books find out sometimes – that it’s okay not to know how to be yet, and that you’ll find your own way IN your own way. Perhaps with a little encouragement.
Given you are a comedian, can you tell us a joke that you think even Joss will laugh at?
I think Joss would like something sensible and quite office-based. So maybe: “What do you call a paper aeroplane that won’t fly? Stationary.”
When Joss is in charge of her dad’s office, she makes everything fun again. Why do you think adults often forget about all these tricks we learnt in school?
I thought it would be funny if Joss – who is a massive fan of her teachers – used all the techniques they use on kids on adults instead. With varying degrees of success! But I also wanted to show the difference between always putting people under pressure to succeed, telling them off, making them feel bad, and instead encouraging them, celebrating good ideas, and willing them to do well. Good teachers encourage, and bad bosses discourage. Everyone wants the same result, but why don’t we do the nicer thing? I think Joss has a great way of approaching things, though she’s scared at first, because she feels she’s “just” a kid. Turns out she’s a teacher.
And of all the fun activities that Joss introduced to her dad’s office, which do you think should be adopted in all offices across the UK?
I think every office should have a break time around 10.30 or 11am, where everyone has to go down to the carpark and run around, or kick a ball about for half an hour, or just hang out in the fresh air. It is much better than making a second bad coffee in a very stale room.
And finally, what do you think will happen if you let your children all wear BOSS passes at home?
Please do not even let them get that idea. I will be in a disciplinary meeting by 9.15am and fired by 9.30.