Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I grew up just around the corner from Mr McGregor’s garden, a mile or so down the valley from Mrs Tiggywinkle’s place, and only a short row from Owl Island. I was very lucky to grow up in one of Beatrix Potter’s favourite places – Keswick – in the English Lake District.
Philip & Laura: We now live in beautiful Eumundi, on the Sunshine Coast. It’s just around the corner from Noosa, a few miles down the road from Fraser Island and a short row from some very interesting sharks.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Keswick School, in the English Lake District, where my dad was the PE teacher (grumble, grumble). Fun fact: If you take a look at the Mighty Mitch series that I’ve illustrated for Mitchell Starc, the character ‘Dad’ is modelled on my old man. Like Mitch, my dad was also my cricket coach. Unlike Mitch, I can’t bowl to save my life.
Did you have a nickname?
‘Mo’! My children (Leo (5), Florence (3) and Arthur (4 months) also call me ‘the dirty rascal’ quite often.
What were you like in school?
I was a little rascal. Often dirty.
What is the naughtiest thing you did?
On a trip to an ancient Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall (the wall they built to keep people like me out of their territory), I broke loose from the group, and jumped into a big pit, from which I could not escape. The teachers were furious. And only when the museum curator pulled me out did I learn that the big pit was the ‘latrine’. This is Roman for ‘the big pit that everybody poops into’.
What was your favourite book growing up?
I was into dinosaurs, and I loved any and all compendiums of dino facts. My favourite is still on my bookshelf behind me, it’s called ‘Dinosaurs, and How They Lived’. It’s looking a bit worse for wear these days (it’s 30 years old!), but you can see how much I read it!
Who is your favourite children’s author?
After Laura Bunting, of course, I think Aaron Blabey has to be my current favourite. How good is The Bad Guys?!
What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
Laura’s Spag Bol. Salmon. Jurassic Park!
Who inspired you to write?
Our children inspired me to rediscover the magic of books!
How did you get started?
I started my career with Mopoke (2017), which was created as a first birthday present for my little girl, Florence. I hadn’t necessarily intended to get Mopoke published, but I’m so glad that I did… creating picture books is so much fun.
How old were you?
I was 32 when I created Mopoke.
How do you think up ideas?
For me, any single idea is the product of countless other ideas coming together, in the right place, at the right time. I think the best thing you can do is keep yourself open to as many new experiences and ideas as possible (and make little notes to yourself to help yourself remember the stuff that really speaks to you). The more you fill your mind with things that interest you, the sooner ideas will begin to pop up. Learn lots, try everything, focus your energy on the things you love, be patient… and the ideas will come. But usually when you’re not expecting them!
Do you have a special place where you write?
In my PJs.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
You can work from home, in your PJs! And the dignity. You can’t lose sight of the dignity.
Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as a writer?
A few librarians have written me stiffly-worded emails about the ‘#%@*!’ bits in a few of my books, as they think it’s a swear word (which I promise, it’s not!). That can be a bit touch-and-go at times. Those ‘#%@*!’ bits in our books are there to represent sounds that don’t really have a meaning, they’re just there to encourage the reader to make an appropriate noise! Like perhaps an angry ‘squaaak!’ in Mopoke or an excited ‘haa-wooga!’ in Koalas Eat Gum Leaves.
What do you do when you are not writing?
At the moment I’m either trying to teach Leo and Florence to bodyboard, or I’m mowing the lawn. We have a lot of lawn.
What would you have chosen to be if you were not a writer?
I would been a Palaeontologist, or an Anthropologist. There’s still so much we don’t know about the natural history of our world, and how we got here.
Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
Maybe Da Vinci? One of those polymath types from the Renaissance would be interesting to meet!