December 14, 2011

Interview with Award Winning Author/Illustrator Tohby Riddle

When did you first decide you wanted to be an author/illustrator?
I don't recall ever deciding to be an author/illustrator. After art school, I just thought I'd try doing a picture book. Then after my first published book I went and studied architecture. While studying, a publisher asked if I had any more ideas so I did another book. Then every now and then I got another idea for a book - and I just wanted to see how each idea would turn out and so I did more books. So it kind of organically developed into some kind of vocation - which I now do full-time!
Where do you write/illustrate?
In an attic space in our little miner's cottage. With kids and family, you work wherever you can, I guess.
What do you believe is a must for every picture book?
These things come to mind: a well-realised reality; humour, as opposed to humourlessness; a fine-tuned quality of sentiment; musicality and good design.
How do you develop your ideas?
By thinking about them in many different ways to test their soundness and develop their dimensionality.

Congratulations on receiving the2011 CBCA Book Year award for your picture book My Uncle's Donkey. What inspired you to write this book?
It simply came out of making up a story to amuse my then three-year-old niece and her two cousins. I told them I had a donkey in my apartment and they laughed and asked all kinds of questions about what it did there. It seemed like a fun idea that could be developed into a book.
What has been a stand out moment for you?
Well, there have been a few, but most recently I really enjoyed being Illustrator-in-Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2010. It was a very inspiring time.
I read that you will be presenting a Children's Author/Illustrator Workshop in NSW next year. What do you like to teach aspiring author/illustrators?
How to improve their thinking as a writer or artist. So long as there is reasonable technique, good work comes from good thinking.
What's next?
I'm just completing a new picture book called Unforgotten. It is 128 pages long and probably my most ambitious project to date. I'm exploring a lot of new territory with the art, writing and bookmaking. If all goes to plan, it'll be released by Allen & Unwin in September 2012.

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