“No one’s having more fun than me,” children’s author and illustrator Liz Pichon said as she talked about her 12th book in the Tom Gates series, Family, Friends and Furry Creatures, which is out now.
"There isn’t a author in the world that doesn’t go around and position their book in a prominent position"
"Seeing all your books in your supermarket. There isn’t an author in the world that doesn’t go around and occasionally position their book in a prominent position. If not me, then definitely my kids will."
The award-winning series was first published in 2011 with The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, and went on to capture the hearts and imaginations of children everywhere with its witty words and beautifully illustrated pages.
It also won a whole string of awards including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and The Red House Children's Book Award.
The fourth book was awarded a Blue Peter Book Award and, for a while, her 11th book in the series, Tom Gates: Dog Zombies Rule, overtook J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to become the number one children’s book in the UK.
Tom Gates’ latest adventure
So, with her previous books reaching critical acclaim, what can you expect from the latest Tom Gates adventure?
"I always think to myself 'I remember what it was like as a kid'," Liz said. "When you had something you liked looking forward to the next episode. I say to myself 'If I was a Tom Gates fan what kind of thing would I be looking for?'
“This book's about Tom who is incredibly enthusiastic about anything he does, but thing always go wrong for him. He has to interview quite a few of his family members for his school project where he finds out different stories, things that happened to his dad and uncle and how his mum and dad met.
“You also get to find out how him and Marcus (Tom's worst enemy) met and, most importantly, he gets to meet his other grandparents.”
The books, which are all written and illustrated by Liz, start out as a word document with lots of little doodles on the page.
Liz said: "It takes a really long time. I work on the word doc but constantly think about what the pictures are going to be about. Pretty much every page starts off on a piece of paper I've drawn out. They all get sent to off to be laid out on pages and my editor and copy editor and I come into the office and we sit there and all work on it together."
Tom Gates picture book
But Tom Gates didn't always start off as a written book. "Tom started off as a picture book," Liz, who started her career as an illustrator, said.
"I had this idea to do it in a scrapbook; that’s where the voice of Tom came. Every time I started writing it I wrote more and kept the same voice and same idea and then I wrote it in an exercise book. I imagined that Tom was writing about a terrible holiday that he'd had and everything had gone horrendously wrong.
"I really wanted to include drawings because there were these books, Mary Plain, which used to have letters and she would write and do drawings. I loved those pages.
"The drawing style that I've done is something that children can copy. And one of the things that has come as a surprise is how the kids have really taking to drawing and doodling. Many of the letters I get are covered in drawings."
It seems since the launch of the first book some six years ago, the Tom Gates series is helping even the most reluctant of readers, read.
Liz said: "I think it's because children can get into them really quickly. They are soaking up all the information on the page really easily and quickly. I always say to the children 'every single one of you has got funny stories of some kind.
"Whether it’s about a pet or family or friends. All I do is remember them and find a way of putting it down so it makes sense as a story."
For those who are fans of the Tom Gates series, it seems you won't have to wait too long to read his next adventure as Liz is currently working on the next. She said: "I’ve already got a title. As soon as I finish the last book I'm already thinking about what’s next."