"I DO not write about history,” says Terry Deary, the author of Horrible Histories.

While it may sound like a contradiction, the controversial and outspoken author of the beloved book series has dug in his heels.

“The things I ‘educate’ are things that cannot be tested,” he says. “I do not write about dates and facts, I write about human beings and the reasons why people behave the way they do.”

The series of more than 60 titles is known for its wit, humour and the books' warts and all attitude.

What started with two books back in 1993, The Terrible Tudors and The Awesome Egyptians, has spawned into a franchise which has led to television shows, video games and of course a number of touring stage productions.

The Incredible Invaders show tackles the Ruthless Romans, the Savage Saxons and their conquests, while the Groovy Greeks stars the adventures of heroes and hoplites in angry Athens and savage Sparta. 

The productions are put together by the Birmingham Stage Company, who recently presented Gangsta Granny, and are just one small element of the series’s unstoppable juggernaut which has captured the imaginations of schoolchildren up and down the country for a generation.

“Children, especially boys, love accumulating facts and finding out things they never knew,” says the best-selling author. “Generally non-fiction is written by experts, but I am not an expert of any sort, I am a children’s author. I have facts and I know how to pass them on and children just seem to have adopted them.”

When asked whether he ever expected the original commission of a history joke book by his publisher to become as big as it is today, he says jokes “probably”.

“Every author writes a book and thinks it is the best book ever written in the history of the universe and they are surprised when it does not sell 50 million,” says Deary. “I know authors are not supposed to say that, they are supposed to be very modest and say ‘oh gosh I am so surprised’; you always hope your next book will be the great success you always deserved.”

As far as what is next for the series Deary still has ambitions for a Horrible Histories movie which he says is “in progress”.

But while you would probably be able to track down a copy of one of the Horrible Histories in any primary school library in the country, Deary says he wants his books banned from schools.

“I do not write books for the classroom. Textbooks can continue to bore the pants off kids, I write entertainment for children which aim to create true education, preparing children for life,” he says. “They have nothing in common with textbooks. Schools like to tell me they use my books in the classroom; I say get them out, ban them from schools please.”

The author has been famously critical of the schooling system and nothing has changed as the government promote divisive plans to reinvent schools as academies. 

“The whole schooling system is the idea of cramming 30 children into one room and treating them all as an individual unit, when you have a group of individuals,” he says. “It makes no difference if you call them academies or local authority schools, they are still just wasting children’s time teaching them things that they never use in their lives. They will still be just as bad whatever they do as it is a silly system.

“There are lots of alternatives around the world from home education to using computers; we need to start with a clean sheet and not fiddle with the existing failing system – you have to radically reinvent."

Born in Sunderland, the 70-year-old attended Monkwearmouth Grammar school and intensely disliked his school experience, describing it as “dull”.

“I learned trigonometry, biology, algebra, chemistry, none of which I have ever you used,” he says. “It is a factory to pass exams; they lie to you and tell you ‘pass an exam and you will succeed in life, get a job, and make money’ but that is just not true.

“I am a writer, but no one trained me to be a writer. If you could teach writing then teachers would not be teachers – they would be writers and have a more pleasant life.”

While the Horrible Histories tour continues to make its way across the country with Deary portraying the pre-recorded voice of Zeus, his focus is currently on a new play he has penned, The Macbeth Curse – an exploration of Shakespeare’s work in the run-up to the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.

“Shakespeare is a genius,” says Deary. “He was a huge influence on me because I was a professional actor before I was a writer.”

But despite his love of the playwright the problem of schools emerges once again as he criticises the way the system imparts the Bard’s work to children.

“He should not be taught in schools, that is for certain,” he says. “Children do not have the maturity to understand the things he is exploring; all they do in schools in teach the stories and the only thing Shakespeare was not original about were the stories, as he borrowed many of them from somewhere else.”

He said regularly he meets people who have been completely put off seeing a Shakespeare performance because of their experiences in their school years.

“You would not believe the amount of people who say this to me,” he says.

“When I was 15 or 16 years old I was taken to the theatre to watch it in performance and then I was sold. 

“Shakespeare is not something to be studied as an academic piece of literature; he would be laughing in his grave if he knew what they were doing to his texts."