1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
As a small child, I wasn’t really interested in writing. I loved drawing and painting and reading. I read all the time – anything and everything. I used to buy books from fetes and secondhand shops, and, of course, I loved the library. When I was about ten I badgered the members of my family to give me their library cards – so I ended up with up with about thirteen of them!
When I was in high school, I was fortunate to have an inspiring English teacher. He liked my stories and would read them out to students from other classes. It was my first taste of having an audience – and I liked it!
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
My first book was called There’s a Sea in my Bedroom, illustrated by Jane Tanner, published in 1984. It is about a small boy who is afraid of the sea. One day he puts a shell to his ear and hears the sea inside. In a fantasy sequence, the sea emerges from the shell, and helps the boy to conquer his fear. The idea came from when I was a child and used to listen to the noise the shell made when I put it against my ear.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere – sometimes I draw on my childhood, but more often I get a germ of an idea from something I hear, see or feel.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
I think poetry has mainly influenced my work, in that I am always trying to find “the right word in the right order”. And I keep going back to those classical picture books (e.g. One Hungry Caterpillar, Millions of Cats, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny) because I think they tell a very good story and achieve a synthesis of text and pictures.
5 What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
My hobbies and interests include listening to classical music, going to concerts and the opera, travelling, watching foreign movies, bush walking and spending time with my family.
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
My favourite writers are Margaret Wise Brown and Martin Waddell.
My favourite illustrators are Julie Vivas, Ron Brooks, Helen Oxenbury, Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak. I love the way they all, in different ways, so accurately explore and portray children’s experiences and emotions.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
My advice to young authors would be to just enjoy writing and making up stories to share with family and friends. And, of course, to read, read, read!