Author Interview: Patricia Cleveland-Peck


Yipppeeeeeee! The next instalment in #ThatElephantSeries is about to hit the shelves. I ADORE this series, and the latest book from Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman did not disappoint. Expect chaos mingled with mayhem, plus tongue-twisting lines and the ability to rhyme a huge menagerie of animals. Hats off to this duo who have most definitely smashed it out of the park once more (my favourite page was the hippo, most definitely!). And to celebrate? I’ve invited Patricia to MyBookCorner to tackle our infamous questions. Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

Tell us about you in 25 words or less

I love writing, love books, love poems, love animals, love flowers, love my garden, love travelling, love Italy, love seafood (and I quite like repetition…).

Your latest picture book, You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car publishes tomorrow! Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of writing a picture book series?

This is the fifth book in the series which began with You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus. I didn’t set out to write a series but after the first one was published, I kept thinking up different crazy situations in which the elephant and the gang of well-meaning but soppy animals could end up creating chaos.

When I have decided on the animals, the situations and the rhymes, the draft text is sent to my wonderful illustrator David Tazzyman who does roughs of the way he sees the spreads. I, meanwhile, am working on improving the rhythm, rhyme and assonance of each spread to make it as much fun as possible. Sometimes a compromise must be reached (for example, if I see a zebra in the scenario and David prefers a kangaroo…) as these books are a co-operative effort by us both to make it the best and funniest book possible.

Ok, here’s a challenge… can you sum up your book in five words? [runs and hides!]

Silly animals + competitive sports = laughs.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Breakfast, urgent emails, settle down to writing, walk, lunch, more writing, tea (and 1 Kit Kat), second walk or a bit of gardening, read through day’s work, non-urgent correspondence, dinner, watch a bit of TV, go to bed…
Alternatively, I sometimes head off somewhere exciting. My last trip was to the snowy Arctic where I went dog sledding – it all counts as research!

What makes you happy?

Being productive, feeling I’ve achieved something.

What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori series, YA books set in Medieval Japan and Walter de la Mare’s Collected Poems and Collected Stories for Children.

What’s your worst habit?

Interrupting people (especially if they are boring…). Yes, I know it is rude. I am sorry.

Your favourite word(s)?

This is a hard one. The English language is full of wonderful words like plangent, eerie, solitude, glimmer and transience. I like them because for me they evoke moods, but I could give a dozen more.

What are your top tips for budding writers and illustrators?

Read lots and lots of books. Keep a diary. Have a notebook/sketch pad with you at all times. Then just write, write, write or draw, draw, draw. There is masses of help online.

Is there anything that’s surprised you about the publishing process?
At the beginning I was surprised by how long the process can take, but now it is the fact that even if an editor likes it, every submission has to go before several – mostly marketing –committees before a publisher will ‘acquire’ it.

Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)

At the moment I have several on the go – another in the Elephant series (title secret), a novel for older children, and an adult novel (which is proving a bit of a struggle for someone used to 450 words being enough…)

Did we forget anything?

You didn’t – but I’ll tell you a fascinating fact learned when I was in the Arctic. All Santa’s reindeer are girls and the males shed their antlers in the winter!

Just for fun

Tea or coffee? Coffee.
Cake or chocolate? Chocolate (but I’d really prefer a bag of crisps).
Write or type? Both – handwriting for diary and notebooks, typing for texts to submit.
Poetry or prose? Both – impossible to choose as thank goodness, there’s room for both.
Hot or cold? Cold. You can add layers to keep warm – but when you’re down to skin, there’s nothing more you can take off if you are sweltering! Or did you mean food? If so, hot!


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