Liz Pichon: Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011
Congratulations! You have written that you only like to write and illustrate funny books so you must be really thrilled to win the Roald Dahl Funny Prize! What does it mean to you to win it?
I haven't stopped smiling!
I was totally thrilled just to be nominated. In fact, when I found out I ran out of my shed (where I work), waved my arms in the air and whooped loudly while running round the garden. The other short listed books were so good and funny too, I'm amazed to have actually won.
It's just … brilliant!
Why do you prefer writing and illustrating funny books?
Mmmmm good question. Imagine if you had the choice to read about one of these two stories:
A dinosaur eating a nice apple.
A dinosaur that's bouncing on a trampoline, wearing springs on it's feet, to get to an apple, that turns out to have a juicy worm inside.
I know which one I'd prefer to illustrate and read about. Which is why I have SO much more FUN writing and drawing about hopefully stuff that makes you chuckle.
What's your favourite funny book from your childhood/today?
One of them has to be Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan. It still makes me laugh today. The drawings go perfectly with the poems and are simple but a bit bonkers. I think 'On The Ning Nang Nong' poem was voted Britain's favourite a while ago?
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is your first fiction book - tell us how this came about.
It started life as a picture book idea in the style of a children's scrapbook. Tom's voice first appeared with the different headings 'All about me', 'Teachers' and 'My Pets'. But it didn't have a clear storyline and publisher's thought that's what it needed. So I thought … OK I'll write a story with a beginning, middle and end and put it in a journal covered with doodles and drawings on it.
Again, the Publishers liked the format and quite liked the story but didn't think the two went together. Finally I bought a few school exercise books and just imagined Tom writing in them about his summer holiday camping trip. I wrote everything in pencil then added teachers comments and lot of doodles.
What you see in The Brilliant World Of Tom Gates is almost what I originally wrote and drew. Luckily the publishers liked it. AND the fonts in the book are both based on my actual handwriting. Which is fantastic.
Are the characters based on anyone you know?
The characters come from a mixture of people really. My family, friends and their children. Me as a child and me as a Mum. Or I might read something and think that characteristic would suit Mr Fullerman and add it to a storyline. I think most people can relate to: grumpy teenagers, slightly scary teachers, annoying smug people. I always say there's no such thing as a normal family is there?
Tell us a bit about how you write and illustrate - is it words or pictures first?
It's both at the same time.
I'm busy thinking of plot ideas all the time. I write them in notebooks or on post it notes that get stuck on my wall so I don't forget them. Sometimes I get ideas from things that happen in my family. For instance, my daughter went to a local dog show and told me lots of funny things that happened, some of which are now in Tom Gates Book three.
What art materials do you use?
I always work with a pencil and special thin paper called LAYOUT PAPER.
I can see what I've already drawn through the paper if I have to re-draw anything. I think really carefully about every single page and try and make each one as interesting and surprising as I can.
I love adding all the different typefaces and doodles that help the story line along too.
Then I scan in the drawings onto the computer and make them stronger and more black and white. The story is then typed up on a word document where I look at it again and make any changes. Eventually it gets sent off to my editor along with the rough drawings. It does take a bit of time, but I enjoy every minute of putting the Tom Gates stories together.
Liz Pichon studied graphic design and has worked as an art director in the music industry. Her freelance design work has appeared on a range of products and she has written and illustrated a number of picture books. Liz's first book for 9+ readers, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, The Best Book for Young Readers – Red House Book Award and the Best Fiction for 5-12 year olds category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. Liz is married with three children and lives in Brighton.