Pip's first book, Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!, an illustrated book for ages 4-7, won the inaugural Greenhouse Funny Prize in 2012. Inspired by her elder daughter's imaginary (sometimes trying!) kitten, it was published in February 2014 by Faber Children's. The second in the series, Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep! published in August 2014, and there are currently four more Squishy McFluff books in the pipeline. Following many appearances with Squishy in 2014, including Hay Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival, Pip's pretty chuffed that other parents around the UK are suddenly 'discovering' invisible pets in their own houses (spreading the joy!).
Pip has also written a picture book, Daddy's Sandwich, which will publish with Faber & Faber in May 2015.
Now are we talking the literal sense of riding shotgun? We are in a car and I'm driving, and the other person in the passenger seat has the shotgun? Like in the Wild West, except that we're not travelling by horse and carriage? I definitely want to be in a car, okay? As for the author, well, it needs to be someone who wouldn't be stupid enough to open the car window so they could start blowing zombies' heads off. You NEVER open the car window, even if you do have a shotgun. I'll just run them over. I don't think I'd be too squeamish about running over zombies. So, I want someone who would NOT open the car window, and who would also be level headed enough to pack us a good amount of sandwiches and a selection of drinks.
Ideally, I'd like an author who could do magic, so when the zombies come en masse (like they always do at some point) and start shaking our car, and it looks like all is lost because one particularly hideous zombie has managed to smash the rear windscreen and is climbing in, my shotgun author could give the car flying powers. When our car looped the loop, all the zombies would fall off. Then we'd go and land on a mountain somewhere and enjoy the view while we had our picnic. All things considered, I think I need JK Rowling. She seems level headed and she's magic, right?
2. Look, I got a time machine on eBay! Where do you want to go? (Said time machine may possibly malfunction and leave you there. Possibly. It was *very* cheap.)
I'm not being funny, Tatum, but when you're making a major purchase like this, it would be advisable to invest in quality. What make is it? I know it's probably quite cool to be curious about the future and everything, but I think travelling into the future is a rubbish idea. I mean, what if I went into the future and discovered it was utterly bleak? That would literally (assuming I managed to get back, in your knackered old bone-shaker) ruin the rest of my life. Oh my god, what if you just selected a random year not that far off and 'landed' only to discover you were six feet under?! No, no, no.
I'd be quite curious to pop back in time to see who Jesus Christ really was. Not because I am religious (I'm not) but I expect this bloke really did exist and it'd be interesting to see what he was like, what really happened, and how much the stories have changed. He must have been very charismatic. That said, I really don't want to get stuck there because I'm only 5ft2 and I'd look terrible in robes and stuff (if I had heels it would be okay, but it was all flat sandals or barefoot back then, wasn't it?). Nope, to hell with you Tatum, I'm not getting in. I'm going to live in the moment.
3. What’s your favourite thing about writing for kids?
It's tough to choose one favourite thing. Writing Squishy McFluff makes me laugh. I'm like that though, I laugh at my own jokes (for far too long sometimes) but how great is it if your work makes you laugh? I also love how reality is so elastic when writing for children. You can mix it up and put your characters anywhere, from a very real/normal world to somewhere completely insane, or anywhere in between. Rules of realism don't inhibit you. You have to be believable, but you don't have to be realistic. Oh, one more favourite thing is when someone tells me that my books have inspired their child to read or have got them excited about reading. That's when I give myself a little high five.
4. A witch has cast a spell on you (sorry about that) and you’ve woken up as a character in a children’s book – what’s your special talent or power?
Invisibility would be really cool if you could switch it on and off. I'd probably go round jabbing people in the ribs which, while not very useful for humanity, would be very funny. As an aside, have you ever considered how funny motorways would look if cars were invisible? Not the people, just the cars. People in sitting positions whizzing past at 70mph. Anyway. No, actually, scrub invisibility, I want to be able to blink myself from one place to another. So, I could just blink myself to the Maldives for a few hours, or on to a rollercoaster for a minute or two if I was feeling sleepy and needed to be alert.
I did a skydive a while back. That was quite scary. I have also flown a small plane (did you know, when you're flying a small plane, you literally just have to look both ways before turning, to check there ISN'T ANOTHER PLANE COMING?!). Um, I tried fire breathing once.
Actually, both the scariest and the strangest things occurred several years ago when I went to Kenya with my sister and some friends, including one Kenyan friend who is ridiculously unperturbed by perilous situations. So, the strangest thing: We were staying at this sort of lodge, which was basically a load of tents in the middle of the wilderness. A few Masai guys wandered about with bows and arrows to scare off, you know, lions and stuff. I'd gone for an afternoon nap, and my sister had come in to the tent after me and not closed it up. A noise disturbed me. I opened my eyes to see something that looked like the back end of a dog at the foot of my bed. The next thing I knew, a fully grown male (definitely male) baboon had climbed up and sat on my legs. Now, I didn't really know the protocol in a situation like this, so I just said very quietly, “oh, god”. Helpful. Anyway, this woke my sister, who was lightly dozing on the bed next to me. The thing was, she'd decided to sleep the other way round, so we were top and tailing, and when she opened her eyes she was just looking me. She gave me a questioning look so I did that thing where you gesture with your head: “Er, look...”. She turned her head to discover her face was approximately 10 inches away from this huge baboon with massive teeth.
She screamed, like I have NEVER seen anyone scream in real life and then shrieked: “GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!” at which point I started laughing really really hard. The baboon looked at us both like we were boring (it may have actually yawned), and left. That's the strangest thing and also the funniest thing that's ever happened to me.
The scariest (possibly stupidest) was deciding to ask a man with a tiny dug out to row us into the middle of Lake Victoria to see if we could find any hippos. We did find hippos. We got surrounded by them. Given that hippos can get a bit mardy when they have their babies with them (which they did), we thought we'd better make a hasty exit – but then we got caught in a storm. There was a moment when I genuinely thought we were going to sink and end up as pirhana food.
6. What’s something you wish you’d known about writing when you started out? What’s something you wish you’d known about publishing?
Writing: How very useful it is to share what you've written. That said, if someone doesn't like the way you have written something, it doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong, it might just mean that person has a different opinion to you. Sometimes it's important to stick to your guns if you feel, in your gut, that you're right.
Publishing: Nothing happens very quickly in publishing, and the publishing process is a bit like a machine. Once your book is with a publisher, it goes through a process and there are many parts of that process that will have very little to do with you. So I guess, in way, you have to let it go a bit... and trust.
7. What would your daemon be?
Hmm. Several years ago, my partner Dan and I started reading His Dark Materials and we had this very conversation. I took it quite seriously, I wanted to consider all of Dan's qualities and come up with a daemon that was really fitting. He went first though, and when I asked him: “So, what would my daemon be, darling?” he said: “A sea cucumber. It wouldn't do much, obviously. You'd have to just drag it behind you on a piece of string.” At first, I laughed. Then he insisted my daemon definitely would be a sea cucumber. So I killed him.*
Anyway, someone once told me if I was an animal I would be a cross between a monkey and a cat and I think that might be true. Maybe my daemon would be a lemur. They have excellent tails.
8. My books don’t have dragons, but they do have... invisible kittens (well, one invisible kitten) and very naughty / spirited children.
* Not really.