Interview with Liz Pichon
18 November 2011Add to My Folder
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Liz Pichon, author and illustrator of The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (Scholastic) has won the 2011 Roald Dahl Funny Prize and has been shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award.
Liz – congratulations on being shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award! How do you feel about Tom’s growing success?
I couldn’t be more pleased! It’s amazing and I still get very excited when I see the book in a shop, library or anywhere really. The Red House Children’s Book Award is special because it’s voted for by children, so that means a lot too.
How did the idea of Tom Gates come about?
It started off as a picture book idea, based on a scrapbook that had lots of drawings and bit’s and pieces stuck in it. That’s where Tom’s voice first appeared (and Mrs Worthington too, with her slightly hairy top lip). But the publishers wanted more of a story. So I wrote one about Tom Gates and put it in a journal with some doodles on the cover. Publishers liked the format and quite liked the story but they didn’t think the two went together. So finally I bought three school exercise books and imagined Tom was writing and drawing in them himself, with Mr Fullerman looming over his shoulder and Marcus Meldrew being annoying. Luckily the publishers were rather keen on this idea, so I got to write a whole story with all the drawings and doodle too.
Tom is a very cheeky but also very sharp in his observations – is he based on anyone you know?
Slightly on me as a child, but also my son and I can remember what some of the boys were like in both my old schools too. Tom is a real combination of lots of different characters really.
The book is very different to other books for this age group in terms of the layout with all your fabulous illustrations. How do you go about this method and what tools do you use?
Firstly, I get all the ideas I have collected in various note books and on post-it notes and begin doing random drawings to see if they spark any story lines off. If they do, I use really thin paper, called layout paper, to do the drawings on, and ordinary A4 paper with a soft pencil and rubber to do the writing. I write as if I’m writing in an exercise book. Every page has the rough story and drawings on which is all handwritten. It takes a while, but time flies when it’s going well. For the final artwork, I scan each page into the computer and sometimes boost up the black and white lines to make them stronger. I might add more type faces to make a point in the book, too. Both the main fonts in the book are made from my own handwriting. How good is that?
When The Brilliant World of Tom Gates won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize it was described as ‘brilliantly laugh out loud funny’ by Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books. Who were your favorite authors when you were growing up and which funny books would you recommend?
I was chuffed to bits with all the nice comments about my book! When I was younger I loved Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids (Puffin) and all of Roald Dahl books. My favourite was probably The Twits (Puffin). But I was also massive fan of Richard Scarry’s drawings and stories. All the details he added and the funny creatures, I found fascinating and funny.
Full of jokes and giggles, take a look at author and illustrator Liz Pichon’s selection of comedy books published in 2011.