If you had to take something into school for show and tell today, what would it be?
Probably my LEGO Yellow Submarine. I’m very proud of it and don’t let my daughters play with it. It would either be that or my dog Ringo. Are you allowed to take pets in?
We love Mr Lumsden’s 80’s moustache. Was this character inspired by anyone in particular?
Yes! Two of my favourite teachers from school. He is named after my form tutor from Years 8 to 11, but he looks like my old head of sixth form Mr Espley. They were both really great.
What was your favourite subject at school?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it was art. But to be honest, I liked most subjects. English, Geography, History, PE…. Oh, and I did Pure Maths with Statistics at A-level!
What was your least favourite subject at school?
I wasn’t very good at drama. Ironic given that I spend half my life on a stage now.
Who was your favourite teacher?
My art teacher in Year 7 was called Miss Patsula and she was great. She recognised a talent in me and encouraged me to draw, draw, draw. She really made an impression and I’d love to be able to thank her for it now. I was very lucky in that I had lots of great teachers. I particularly remember Mrs Stevenson, Mr Oldfield, Mr Harber, Mr Brown, Mademoiselle Smith, Frau Bowler and Dr Clement. They really helped to shaped me into the person I am today.
Did you ever get into trouble for doing something naughty at school?
A few times, but never for anything really bad. I was a very good boy in the main. That’s what I tell my children anyway! I was one of those people who really enjoyed school and liked learning. Plus I made lots of FFLs (friends-for-life, is that a thing?) and we still meet up regularly.
What were your favourite books to read when you were growing up?
When I was at primary school my absolute favourite author and illustrator was Richard Scarry. I loved every single one of his books and still have them all. In secondary school I moved onto things like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and The Lord of the Rings. Reading the classics as part of my GCSEs really helped me to take that love of reading for pleasure into my adult life. Books like Of Mice and Men, 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World and Lord of the Flies. They are classics for a reason. And I would still say that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite book ever. I must have read it twenty times.
When you’re working on your books, what comes first – the pictures or the words?
Usually there will be an image. Sometimes it’s just a character sketch, sometimes it’s an entire scene from the story. I find it useful when writing to have a rough idea of how the final characters might look as it really informs my writing. Once I have an image or two, I will write a first draft and then I’ll sketch a rough layout. Then it’s a question of honing and finessing both words and pictures (alongside my team at HarperCollins) until eventually we end up with a finished book. The whole process can take up to a year!
Back to school means a new pencil case. Do you love buying new stationery and art equipment and where do you get it?
I LOVE stationery. In fact, I think I might have a problem. Lots of people ask me which pens I use for my signings and my brand of choice is always Kuretake. The Mangaka Flexible is a particular favourite. I get them shipped over in bulk from Japan.
You are the official World Book Day Illustrator – will you be dressing up as one of your characters to celebrate this year? This is a dare.
Ha. We’ll see! My publishers bought me a rainbow scarf exactly the same as the one worn by the Odd Dog Out so maybe I’ll put that on.